AIRBUS has set an ambitious £70 million expansion plan in motion in Filton.

The aircraft manufacturer kicked off the construction of a new state-of-the-art engineering and technology business park at a special ceremony attended by company bosses, staff and local representatives yesterday.

Over 2,500 of the firm’s 4,000 employees will move to the Airbus Aerospace Park when it opens in 2013.

Mark Barclay, senior vice president of the Airbus Wings and Pylons Centre of Excellence, said at the inaugural event: "Filton is a centre of excellence for aviation with a proud history going back over a century and this investment will help ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of design and engineering in the decades to come."

He added: "This is an important milestone that shows our long term commitment to Filton and the UK."

As part of the plans, Bristol Aeroplane Company’s former base, the currently vacant Pegasus House, will be renovated and brought back into use as a modern conference centre and offices. The Grade II listed building is widely considered to hold a significant place in the country’s aviation legacy. The facilities will also be fitted with the lastest green technology and the new building is expected to help the firm reduce its energy consumption by up to 55 per cent.

A total of 500 employees will be hired over the next year across a variety of departments at both UK sites in Filton and Broughton.

Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti praised the aerospace giant at the launch.

He said: "The new Airbus Business Park will secure thousands of jobs locally and is a fitting recognition to the home of British aviation and the centre of excellence that we have in Filton." The firm annouced last week that it had enjoyed the most profitable year in its history with a record-breaking 534 international orders in 2011.