Canaries’ fans support for Marham campaign

The fight to save RAF Marham was bolstered by a sell out Carrow Road crowd many of whom signed a petition before taking their seats to watch the Canaries take on Leeds.

Scores of City fans added their names to the 10,000 or so who have already backed the EDP's Make it Marham campaign which aims to show ministers that the West Norfolk base should be spared the axe.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP and EDP editor Pete Waters were among those urging fans to sign a petition by carrying 'Make it Marham' placards outside Carrow Road before Saturday's game.

Ms Smith said: 'There are many people in the city who are either employed by or connected to RAF Marham in other parts of the area - there are married quarters for RAF Marham in Old Catton - and its really important to get behind the campaign. You only need look at the comparative unemployment levels between West Norfolk and Lossiemouth to see that we really deserve to keep Marham open.'

Mr Waters said: 'We had a fantastic response from city shoppers and fans travelling down to the Canaries' game. People were very aware what it was about and were queuing up to sign.

'I think Norfolk realises how important keeping open RAF Marham is to our economy. We can't just let government make their decision without them realising the strength of feeling in the county.'

Kevin Bishop, 50, from March in Cambridgeshire, once did an attachment at RAF Marham and said the air base was vital to the region. He said: 'It's vitally important for the East of England. I think it would be devastating (if it was to close) there's a lot of people that rely on that base.'

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John Moore, 41, from Riverside Road, Norwich, said: 'If it wasn't for Marham the area would be like a ghost town. Where are the families going to live if it closes down? It would be like the end of the earth for Marham because it keeps the village going. It's not a big village and what would the people do or where would they go?'

John Farrow, 49, from Bury St Edmunds said the biggest blow would 'without question' be the loss of jobs if Marham was to be axed.

David Brown, 47, from Costessey, served 27 years with the RAF at Coltishall and knows has several friends who went to Marham when Coltishall closed.

He said: 'I just can't believe we're thinking about closing one of the only fighter bases left in the east of England.'

James Furness, 66, from Coltishall, and his brother Roger, 68, from Old Catton, said they would be signing the petition and said the air base was vital to the region - particularly following the loss of Coltishall.

Andrew Cross, 55, and his wife Glenda, 56, from Costessey, both added their names to the petition. Mr Cross said that Norfolk needs a mix of employment, including mechanical and engineering provided by places like RAF Marham, in order to survive and prosper.

Meanwhile Norwich fan Jake Humphrey, the BBC's face of Formula One who will be presenting live coverage of Sunday's East Anglian Derby on BBC 1, said Norfolk was a 'world class county' and added that it would be sad if Norfolk was to 'lose any of the things it is renowned for' such as RAF Marham.

Elsewhere in the county, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he was delighted at the 'phenomenal' public response to the Make it Marham campaign in King's Lynn on Saturday.

It was estimated that about 2,500 signatures were collected in just two hours at an information stand in the middle of the town's busy Vancouver Quarter.

He was joined at the stand by deputy leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Brian Long, and borough councillors Elizabeth Nockolds, Michael Pitcher, David Johnson, Ivan Goodson, Elizabeth Watson and Andrew Tyler.

Mr Bellingham said: 'The response from the public today has been absolutely phenomenal. It shows the level of commitment that the people have to RAF Marham, the sense of attachment that people feel towards it and how it is felt to be an essential part of west Norfolk.

'If we were to lose RAF Marham, of course the job losses would be terrible but it is also the emotional attachment that people here have to the base.

'The RAF played an absolutely vital part in Britain winning the last war and many of the people responsible for that were based in west Norfolk. It is this sense of pride that is driving many people to fight to save what is now the last remaining air base in Norfolk.'

He added: 'I will be urging the Prime Minister and the defence secretary to base their decision on defence grounds, rather than political lobbying.

'If the decision is made on this basis Marham will have to be saved, because it has the technical expertise and infrastructure and the geographical location to benefit our armed forces. If you look at the areas that our troops are likely to be deployed, then Marham is clearly better located than Lossiemouth.'

Cllr Nockolds said: 'RAF Marham does a lot of community work. The base has been responsible for rasing money for the British Legion and the hospital in King's Lynn, amongst others.'