Museum scheme hopes to revive RAF Coltishall

The aviation history of RAF Coltishall could be brought back to life after a company vying to take over the axed base revealed plans to turn it into a heritage centre and museum.

The Hans House Group of Companies is said to be a frontrunner among bidders keen to buy the site and has laid out a scheme to revive the former Battle of Britain base and its iconic buildings.

Aircraft including the Spitfire and Hurricane and the jets of the Cold War would be housed and displayed on site and the former control tower turned into an observation deck.

The base's military buildings would showcase memorabilia and artefacts from Coltishall's 68-year history and occasional non-commercial flights could return to the runway.

Bruce Giddy, managing director of Hans House, hopes the plans will transform Coltishall into a must-see tourist attraction and expects the museum scheme - along with other proposed uses for the site including agricultural machinery production - to create 'a substantial number of new jobs'.

He added: 'As prospective new owners we are convinced the new heritage centre and aircraft museum will be good for business within the Norfolk Broads National Park as a whole.

'It promises to widen the attractiveness of this exciting place for all age groups to visit, sufficient for Coltishall to be on most future holiday makers' to-do list, whatever the weather.'

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The scheme also includes constructing a solar farm either side of the runway, which is claimed will generate enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes.

The Hans House announcement follows months of silence over what will become of Coltishall after a scheme to turn the 650-acre site into a 'recycling' centre for ageing airliners fell through.

The proposal from TAG Aviation would have created more than 300 jobs but fell through in September, with the firm citing changes to the project's funding.

Since then the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which owns the site and opened HMP Bure on the base in 2009, has been in talks with previous bidders but remained tight lipped over any new potential schemes.

The Spirit of Coltishall Association, formed by servicemen who worked at the base that closed in 2006, is supporting the Hans House plans.

John Welton, from the group, said: 'It would be nice to see it come back to life with a use that would respect its heritage and history.'

He said members had 'applauded' Mr Giddy's work to ensure the solar farm's 'commercial aspect works within the heritage framework'.

Hans House said it had made a series of offers for the base and believes an MoJ decision is 'imminent'.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has stressed to the ministry that Coltishall's future needs to be sorted quickly as it has been out of use for so long.

He added: 'I hope we're close to a decision because it's really important we get clarity for the community and the potential for jobs.'