New ‘compromise’ offer for former RAF Coltishall
12:00 07 November 2012
A spurned bidder for ex-RAF Coltishall has rejoined battle with an out-of-the-blue “compromise” offer.
The Hans House Group of Companies, and its financial backers Artemis Trustees, want to buy the base, giving Norfolk County Council free use of some land and buildings to help create jobs.
The move comes as it emerged that contracts had still not been exchanged between site owners the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and “preferred bidder” Norfolk County Council after more than five months of negotiations.
The council has offered “several million pounds” for the 600-acre former second world war fighter station with plans to return much of the land to farming, plus some housing and light industry.
Bruce Giddy, managing director of Hans House, said the deal appeared to have gone cold and meanwhile opportunities to improve the local economy were being lost and the base faced another winter of deterioration.
“If we can simply step in and buy, we will do so for the people –without using people’s money, which is what Norfolk County Council would be doing,” said Mr Giddy.
“The council would then still have all that money available to use for projects which directly create jobs.”
But Cliff Jordan, the council’s cabinet member for efficiency, would not be drawn on the Hans House offer.
He told the EDP: “At the moment, we are concentrating our efforts in securing the site in the best interests of the Norfolk economy and residents generally.”
The purchase was complex but he hoped all outstanding information would be received “shortly” allowing matters to be resolved “soon”. He anticipated this would be within weeks, rather than months.
Answering a question about the hold-up at Monday’s cabinet meeting, Mr Jordan said the council was awaiting details from utility companies about enabling the separation of services between the base, which closed in 2006, and HMP Bure.
Hans House had previously offered £4.1m for the base and hoped to create the UK’s largest solar farm, as well as celebrating the station’s Battle of Britain heritage with memorabilia and historic aircraft displays, plus occasional non-commercial flights, agricultural machinery production, aircraft engineering, emergency services training, and a possible care home and holiday accommodation.
Controversially, the council’s proposals for the base include ripping up the runway. But the authority says it would work with the Spirit of Coltishall Association to preserve the base’s history.
An MoJ spokesman would not comment specifically on the compromise offer but confirmed sale contracts with the county council had not been exchanged, although progress on the legal formalities was being made.