BAE Systems has completed the sale of its 502-acre Woodford site in Stockport and east Cheshire to Avro Heritage, controlled by JCB heir Joe Bamford.
Bamford made the purchase through Avro Heritage, formerly called JCB Real Estate, at a price understood to be around £100m. Under the terms of the deal Bamford will protect the site's association with the aviation industry in future development.
Jim Welsh, Woodford site general manager for BAE Systems, said: "BAE Systems has a long and proud association with Woodford and although disappointed to be leaving the site we are happy that the new owners have exciting plans for this historically important site."
Those plans include housing and leisure uses such as a polo club and equestrian centre. Bamford has teamed up with Wilmslow farmers and property investors Harry and Dave Harvey to develop the site. The Harveys are masters of the drag hunt with the Cheshire Farmers Drag Hunt, based at their Hough Hall farm in Prestbury Road.
As part of the sale, the existing golf club and heritage care in the process of extending their leases to remain on the site.
There are 1.7m sq ft of industrial premises at the site and Bamford and his team are in talks with a US move company over a short-term lease to produce a film in 2012. The acquisition is not a corporate JCB deal and there will be no manufacture of diggers at the site,m contrary to local rumour.
James Fletcher, spokesman for Avro Heritage, said: "We are honoured to take ownership of such a historic site and we will endeavour to ensure its past is not forgotten.
"We have many exciting plans for the site which will hopefully create new jobs and provide the local community with much needed leisure facilities."
Cllr Dave Goddard, leader of Stockport Council, said: "We look forward to working with the new owners of the Woodford Aerodrome site, and continuing to work closely with Cheshire East Council, local people and businesses on the best possible future for the site. We hope to publish the Supplementary Planning Document as early as possible next year, which will guide future development for the site."
BAE Systems had a presence at the Woodford site since 1924 and manufactured 20,000 aircraft at the facility including the Lancaster Bomber, Canberra, Vulcan, Nimrod and Avro jets.