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Planning application could see diggers ripping up RAF Coltishall runway this spring

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:04 10 February 2014

RAF Coltishall from the air. Picture; MIKE PAGE

RAF Coltishall from the air. Picture; MIKE PAGE

Archant

Heavy lorries and machinery could roll up to former RAF Coltishall this spring and start digging up its runway if a planning application is approved by the site’s owners, Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council’s vision for former RAF Coltishall

Norfolk County Council has put together a “Development Vision” for former RAF Coltishall following an eight-week consultation period last summer.

Its short-term proposals include:

■ a 50-acre solar farm with a capacity of up to 10 MW

■ developing the Officers’ Mess for housing. A full planning application is expected with work starting this summer. It would be followed by a rolling programme of housing development

■ inviting anyone interested in becoming a County Farm tenant to get in touch with a view to using land on the flying field area from late this year

■ creating controlled public access to a heritage trail around the old playing field area with passes issued to local residents

■ focusing on marketing and developing business and employment opportunities in the technical area, which includes the four hangars.

The 18-month scheme could see a peak 100 daily HGV movements through a housing estate.

The application, by the council’s contractor Lafarge Tarmac, has horrified many residents in nearby Badersfield, and caused concern to those interested in the former Battle of Britain base’s proud heritage.

But the council says it makes “economic sense” to put assets on the site to work and any inconvenience would be time limited.

The council, which bought the 600-acre base for £4m in January last year, hopes to recoup some of its investment by using an estimated 140,000 tonnes of aggregates from the runway in the proposed Postwick Hub, A12/A143 link road at Great Yarmouth, and other road improvement schemes.

Steve Riley, who is  the new Broadland District councillor for the Aylsham ward.Steve Riley, who is the new Broadland District councillor for the Aylsham ward.

It would be transported through part of residential Badersfield to the B1150 North Walsham to Norwich road.

Lafarge wants to remove concrete from the northern and southern Cold War extensions to the base’s runway, together covering just over 30ha. The middle section would remain intact.

There have already been a number of objections to the application, and one supporting response.

Both North Norfolk District Council and Broadland District Council, whose areas meet on the base, have warned of possible unexploded ordnance in the area.

Dave Welsh.Dave Welsh.

Steve Riley, Badersfield spokesman on the council’s RAF Coltishall community liaison reference group, said most residents were “aghast and appalled” at the plan.

“We are absolutely dismayed at the thought of 100 HGV movements, from 7am-6pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings, coming through a housing estate where children are catching school buses, and people are constantly crossing the road to the shop and activities at the church. It is completely unsuitable,” said Mr Riley.

He claimed that the proposed route had come as a bombshell to residents who now felt angry and misled as the council had always said it would avoid homes.

Residents were also very concerned at the loss of runway which would remove any chance of an aeronautical business moving on to the site. And he believed that the council should not take any action until English Heritage had announced its decision on whether the runway should be protected.

RAF Coltishall Jaguars ready to depart at dawn for Bosnia in 1994.RAF Coltishall Jaguars ready to depart at dawn for Bosnia in 1994.

Dave Welsh, chairman of the Spirit of Coltishall Association which aims to keep alive memories of the base, said they had been talking to the county council, through the liaison group, from the beginning and hoped their influence had stopped initial plans to rip up the entire runway.

“Disturbing any of the runway is a shame because it breaks its history,” said Mr Welsh.

The original Second World War grass runway was superseded in the age of jet aircraft by concrete. The original Second World War grass runway was superseded in the age of jet aircraft by concrete. The runway was extended in 1957 to cope with traffic from larger and faster second generation jet aircraft, such as the Hawker Hunter and the Gloster Javelin.

The base, which closed in 2006, was awarded conservation area status in 2010. A Second World War Spitfire pen and Cold War blast pens are also scheduled ancient monuments.

In its application Lafarge conceded that the removal of the runway extensions would cause “a degree of harm” to the conservation area, but said it would be outweighed by the benefit of bringing the site back into use.

A county council spokesman said that at the end of the work the site would be restored to similar levels and was likely to become agricultural grassland, with landscape planting to “acknowledge the location and extent of the line of the former runway.”

During the working period, some days would be quiet and some busy, resulting in an average of 34 movements a day.

The application will be considered by the county’s planning sub committee on March 21. The spokesman said their decision would be taken in a fair, unbiased and open way and officers’ advice would be impartial.

Nigel Smith, county council RAF Coltishall project manager, said the application followed a successful planing trial in December on the northern part of the runway. He urged those interested to air their views before the consultation period ended on March 20.

■ The application can be viewed online at: http://eplanning.norfolk.gov.uk/PlanAppDisp.aspx?AppNo=C/1/2013/1020

■ Let us hear your views on the application. Write to: EDPLetters@archant.co.uk or The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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