RAF site developers defend slow progress

With its decaying houses and overgrown gardens it is like a ghost town.But the disused RAF site at West Raynham is no gloomy film setting; it is a daily reality that stirs anger and frustration with thousands of local families crying out for affordable homes.

With its decaying houses and overgrown gardens it is like a ghost town.

But the disused RAF site at West Raynham is no gloomy film setting; it is a daily reality that stirs anger and frustration with thousands of local families crying out for affordable homes.

Since being vacated by the Ministry of Defence in 1994, the site near Fakenham seems no nearer an immediate solution.

Exactly a year ago today, developers Hodge Homes bought the £9.2m base with a pledge to build a new community of nearly 200 homes, shops and public transport.


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The sale was seen as a success by residents and officials who had been battling for 11 years to persuade the MoD to release the decaying quarters for development.

But a year on and, despite the promises, the site remains boarded up, causing further frustration with north Norfolk's 3,300 young people currently waiting for an affordable property in an area where house prices have spiralled out of sight.

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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has now fired an angry broadside at Hodge Homes, accusing them of "keeping mysteriously silent."

Together with North Norfolk District Council, the Lib-Dem MP, who previously lobbied the MoD to release the site branding it a "national disgrace," is now asking for an explanation.

"I am very angry at the lack of communication and determined to get the company to explain what is really happening. It is outrageous in the extreme that they are sitting on a valuable asset without doing anything with it."

Since the 185-acre site was bought by the Cardiff-based company, Mr Lamb has been in regular touch with the developers, requesting further details of the planned development and insisting on meeting the project managers.

But in a letter to the MP last October, Hodge Homes Ltd argued "there was no point in a meeting to discuss the plans in detail until such time as the extent and cost of the infrastructure renewal had been established."

Last night a North Norfolk District Council spokesman said it had been trying to get updates regarding the proposed development but had not "heard a thing from the developers for a year."

He said: "We contacted them in April last year, before the official sale was concluded. We approached them a few months later, in September, to see whether they were planning something.

"We got a response saying they would be in contact once they had concluded the deliberations, but we haven't heard from them ever since."

The EDP eventually got a call back from Roger Collins, project manager for Hodge Homes, last night.

Calling from Norway, where he is currently on holiday, he said: "Installing the infrastructure has taken us a lot longer than anticipated. This site has been off care for more than 11 years. We need to get all the services reinstated and just to give an example we need to put in a 10km run of sewers.

"The whole infrastructure has to be renewed, including the water mains, sewerage and electricity supply. The utility companies are moving very slowly on this and we are paying more than £800,000 in annual bills just to sit still. There is nobody keener than us to complete the project and put it on the market, but at the moment it is difficult to give out a specific date."

But Mr Lamb hit back, saying: "If they are experiencing problems with the utility companies they should say so. I am quite happy to take the matter up with the companies to speed the process up."

The former RAF West Raynham was first used as an airfield in 1938 before it was officially opened as an RAF station in 1939. Operations ceased in 1994 and following its closure the site remained one of a number of strategic reserves within the UK.

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