Anger over plans to mothball airbase

RICHARD BATSON The Home Office is poised to buy RAF Coltishall then mothball it as a possible asylum centre for the future, it was revealed today.News of the latest twist in the uncertain future of the former Battle of Britain airbase was greeted with a mixture of anger and concern locally.

RICHARD BATSON

The Home Office is poised to buy RAF Coltishall then mothball it as a possible asylum centre for the future, it was revealed today.

News of the latest twist in the uncertain future of the former Battle of Britain airbase was greeted with a mixture of anger and concern locally.

The move was hailed as the “worst of all worlds” as it could blight the site and moves to redevelop it to plug a £20m hole in the local economy left by the RAF closure.

Locals have suffered weeks of speculation about whether the government wanted the re-use the former airfield as an asylum removal centre or jail.

However today Gerry Sutcliffe, the under secretary of state for criminal justice and offender management, confirmed the Home Office was poised to buy the site - but that there were no immediate plans for a centre, and it was set to be land-banked for the future.

Most Read

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who was told the news by Mr Sutcliffe himself, was “incandescent” with the Home Office for its indecision.

“It is the worst of all worlds. Things could drag on interminably. It potentially blights the site for private purchase.

“Apart from the housing which is being sold off separately the base could decay - just like the scenario we had at RAF West Raynham and which we wanted to avoid here,” said Mr Lamb, who tagged the Home Office handling of the saga as “incompetent, inept and unacceptable.”

His Mid Norfolk counterpart Keith Simpson said there still could be a change of heart before the buy-up was confirmed by the secretary of state.

He was keen to get assurances that if the Home Office did mothball the part of the site it potentially wanted - and which nobody else apparently did - that the rest would go back on the open market to save the whole base being in “suspended animation.”

Coltishall parish council chairman John Harding said local businesses would still benefit from the sell off of the former RAF homes, but the delay put job prospects “in limbo” and fuelled speculation that the government was buying time to make a higher security unit which would house criminals.