Buyer found for RAF Neatishead site

A buyer has been found for a former RAF station which once formed the eyes and ears of the nation's defence.

A buyer has been found for a former RAF station which once formed the eyes and ears of the nation's defence.

Contracts have been exchanged with the buyer for the land at RAF Neatishead, but completion is not due until late next month - prompting officials to be guarded about the identity of the purchaser.

The station, closer to Horning than Neatishead, has watched over our skies for 60 years and continues to do so on a much smaller scale.

Of around 13 hectares of former base, 2.6 hectares have been retained by the Ministry of Defence - and the slimmed down operation renamed a remote radar head.

The speed of the sale will be particularly pleasing to many people in the context of previous sales of other ex-RAF sites such as RAF West Raynham, which took many years to be disposed of and led to deep resentment in the community.

Neatishead was formally placed on the market in July by Defence Estates, the property arm of the MoD. The original deadline for sale was set for March 2007.

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The buildings on the site include a fascinating underground bunker whose access is disguised inside an innocent looking bungalow.

The key issues now will be the identity of the buyer, their intentions for the site and for a final decision to be made on the fate of the site's celebrated radar museum.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said yesterday: "The news of the sale is excellent, the last thing we wanted was a drawn-out process.

"We are in the dark about the intentions of the purchaser at this stage, but have to hope the new owners will have plans for the site consistent with what the local community wants.

"I would urge the purchaser to contact the different tiers of representation to engage in a discussion."

Officials at North Norfolk District Council have previously suggested the site would be suitable for low density employment because of its remote nature and poor road access.

The issue of the museum remained unresolved last night, but it has not been included in the current sale. And it is understood that RAF top brass hope it will continue as an attraction, but certain red tape needs to be cut through before that can happen.

"It is incredibly important the museum is preserved," said Mr Lamb. "It is part of the heritage both of north Norfolk and of the country."

The museum has become even more valued recently because it has opened a memorial room dedicated to the heritage of RAF Coltishall, which is due to close for good next month.

RAF Neatishead was scaled down to its current state of remote radar head two years ago, a move said to have struck a £10m blow to the local economy. An MoD spokesman said last night: "I can confirm the sale is well advanced."