May 24 2013 Latest news:
by DAN GRIMMER
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Norfolk County Council leaders have revealed the authority is in pole position to spend millions of pounds to buy the former RAF Coltishall base.
Council bosses have tabled an offer to buy the 600-acre site with the Ministry of Justice and have unveiled how they want to breathe new life into the former base.
While solid plans for the site have yet to be mapped out, council leaders are hoping a large portion of the site can be used for farming, some existing buildings can be converted into homes and other parts of the base can become home for businesses.
The base closed six years ago, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, and has been on the market ever since, with a number of proposals and plans failing to get off the ground.
While the council is refusing to reveal how much they have bid for the base, it is understood the figure is several million and the MoJ has signalled that the authority is its preferred bidder.
The county council believes buying the site and making it available to its tenant farmers and small businesses will save it from going to rack and ruin, while creating new jobs for Norfolk.
Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Coltishall is a very special place with a proud history, but the time to realise its potential for the good of the community and the Norfolk economy generally is well overdue. “The purchase of this asset is absolutely in line with our key roles to act positively and decisively on behalf of Norfolk communities.
“This is an excellent opportunity to show leadership of the Norfolk economy, where the market has failed to deliver, as part of our economic growth strategy.”
Mr Murphy said he did not want the base to go the same way as RAF West Raynham, which shut in 1994 and has yet to be developed.
He said: “Coltishall’s buildings are deteriorating and we can’t allow that to continue. We need to seize the opportunity now and work together to use this key asset innovatively and creatively to benefit local people and our economy.”
News that the council is the MoJ’s preferred bidder will come as a blow to the Hans House Group of Companies, which submitted a bid to revive the base and its buildings as a heritage centre and museums.
The county council’s proposal has been backed by MPs and the parish council - at least in principle, with the authority promising a community liaison reference group will be set up to talk to local people and partners about the future of the site.
Robert Watson, chairman of Coltishall Parish Council: “From the community’s point of view, we would very much welcome some firm proposals for the site which has been left in limbo for far too long.
“Local people will want to see the detail, but I think would welcome a return of some of the site to agricultural land and the idea of retaining a sense of the heritage of the site.”
Norfolk turkey giant Bernard Matthews is in talks to sell a stake in the business.