RAF Coltishall runway could be ripped up to build Norwich Northern Distributor Road

The runway at RAF Coltishall could be ripped up and used to build the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, it has emerged.

The revelation came after Norfolk County Council councillors and officers defended their proposals to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to buy the former Battle of Britain air base.

Yesterday's heated meeting of the council's cabinet scrutiny committee also saw a rival bidder for the base accuse a member of the council's cabinet of lying.

The ruling Conservative cabinet has agreed in principle to buy RAF Coltishall, after the Ministry of Justice picked the county council as its preferred bidder for the 600-acre site.

But the decision was 'called in' to cabinet scrutiny by the opposition Liberal Democrat group, who said, in the absence of a business plan, there were too many question marks over the deal.


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The authority, which has not revealed how much it is prepared to pay for the base, has said it would like to see the majority of it used for farming.

Former air force buildings could be converted into homes, while other buildings could be offered to businesses to buy or rent, with a trail giving the public the chance to learn about the history of the base.

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However, at yesterday's meeting, officers confirmed they planned to tear up the runway, so long as English Heritage allows it.

And, afterwards the authority confirmed aggregate created by doing that could be used to build roads in the county, including the NDR.

The council has secured �86.5m for the �141.5m road, which would stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road.

A spokesman said: 'If we return land to agriculture in line with the overall planning brief for the site, it would make sense to re-use the aggregates. The NDR is a possibility.'

At yesterday's meeting, Cliff Jordan, cabinet member for efficiency, Mike Jackson, director of environment, transport and development and Mike Britch, managing director of Norfolk Property Services (NPS) faced questions.

After criticism from Lib Dems that the county council had not clearly shown how investing in the base made sound financial sense, Mr Jordan said: 'The problem we have always had is how much do you let be known when we are asked by the Ministry of Justice for extreme caution and commercial confidentiality?

'We have always had a difficult plank to walk. But we know what we are proposing is good value for money.

'When we talk about the real detail, we want all the community to be involved in that.'

Also called before councillors was Bruce Giddy, managing director of the Hans House Group of Companies, which tabled a rival bid for the site.

He offered �4.1m and wants to save the historic buildings to turn them into a heritage centre and museum.

That scheme would also feature a solar farm, generating electricity for the National Grid.

But Mr Giddy accused Mr Jordan of lying, after the cabinet member replied to a question about whether the authority would fund a company approaching them for a project without a business plan. Mr Jordan said: 'We have been approached by Mr Giddy to supply him with funds and I said no.'

NPS boss Mr Britch said the funding request was made at a meeting in January, where the council and Mr Giddy discussed working together on a Coltishall bid and Mr Jordan said Mr Giddy asked if the authority would provide �450,000.

Mr Giddy said: 'That's not true. I refute that. That's an out and out lie and I want that struck out of the records.

'We are fully funded and in no circumstances have we sought funding from anybody. I take that as a great insult and I am very upset.'

Mr Jordan replied: 'I don't care what he says. He can jump up a wall.'

Facing questions over whether the Hans House Group plans involved relocating Norwich International Airport to Coltishall, Mr Giddy said that was looked at in the early stages, but had been dismissed in favour of the solar farm and aviation museum proposal.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Giddy said contamination issues on the base could see the council hit with a hefty bill if it went ahead with the idea to pull up the runway, although the council says it has taken that potential problem into account in making its bid.

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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