Wroxham & Coltishall

£6.5m investment for RAF Coltishall

Just Regional
Jan 11, 2013 4 mins read

The former RAF Coltishall airbase has been bought by Norfolk County Council for £4 million.

After more than six years of rumour, suspicion, speculation and confusion, plus the building of the HMP Bure sex offenders’ prison on a small part of the site, the council has completed its purchase of the historic 600 acre site from the Ministry of Justice. The prison will remain in the hands of the government.

The sale process has been clouded in secrecy since it started several months ago, but this was because the MoJ insisted on carrying out negotiations behind closed doors, said senior councillors.

And they have pledged to now be in “listening mode”, hold open days and take on board the views of the public and businesses as they draw up a masterplan for the future.

A draft version of the masterplan should be ready by June and the final version by the autumn.

There will be a huge amount of work to do before many of the buildings are usable – some of them have been almost untouched since the closure of the RAF base in late 2006 and several have suffered from water damage, gutters which have not been emptied and general neglect.

A five-year business case suggests the council will need to spend £6.5 million but receive £5.6 million in capital receipts.

It also hopes to generate annual revenue of more than £600,000.

Council officials have said these income figures are at the lower case scenario.

For instance, a figure of £2 million in income from aggregate and asphalt recovery is a minimum, they say, and does not include taking up the runway.

“So far it has had to be a closed process,” said acting council leader Bill Borrett.

“The MoJ would not allow us to give a running commentary, so we have had our hands tied.

“But the process will now be opened up – we are in listening mode.”

This morning <11>, council chairman Ian Monson raised the County of Norfolk flag on the Queen Elizabeth II roundabout, near the old base entrance, where in November 2006 the RAF ensign was lowered.

The council has previously outlined several possible opportunities for the former base to generate income and boost the local economy, which include returning some of the land for agriculture and providing new locations for business, providing some housing and the possibility of using part of the runway for solar panels.

They have stressed though that no suggestions are ruled in or out at this stage.

Cliff Jordan, cabinet member for efficiency, said: “I’m grinning from ear to ear.

“It has been a long and challenging road to get to the stage where we are now, but I am delighted we can now announce the council has bought the site and we are ready to realise its long-term potential.

“I am convinced the price we have paid for the site represents excellent value for money.

“We understand the strong feelings towards, and importance of, developing the site for commercial purposes while maintaining the rich military heritage which still exists.

“We are working closely with English Heritage and have commissioned Cold War experts at the University of East Anglia to help us in our thinking. Allotments for local people and community woodland are also a real possibility.”

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development, said: “We feared the site could remain unsold or bought speculatively and left unused for even longer.

“This is why we have purchased it for the benefit of local people and the wider Norfolk economy.”

Road access and splitting mains services from the HMP Bure site will be among major projects that need to be tackled in the coming months.

Work has already begun to tidy the site, cutting back vegetation, reinstating the base flagpole and weather-proofing some of the buildings.

Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: “It is good news that a decision has been made regarding the purchase of the site and work will now begin to bring the former airbase back to life.

“It has been left to deteriorate for many years and the district council is supportive of the county council’s purchase.”

Updates will be posted on the council’s dedicated website www.norfolk.gov.uk/RAFColtishall and people can post comments by emailing FutureofRAFColtishall@norfolk.gov.uk

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