Coltishall bidders given October deadline

The bidder being lined up to take over RAF Coltishall was second in line for the former airbase and has until next month to decide if it wants the site, it has been revealed.

The potential buyer, the identity of which is being kept closely under wraps, is the only party to have expressed an interest in the axed Battle of Britain base after plans to turn it into a recycling centre for ageing jets fell through.

Talks are now taking place between the bidding company – hailed as having the second best proposal for the site after TAG Aviation's plans to turn it into an aircraft decommis-sioning business – and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb met with justice minister Crispin Blunt today and was told the MoJ had given the bidders until October to come back with a yes or no.

But he was not informed who the interested buyers were and what they hoped to do with the historic 650-acre site.

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Mr Lamb said: 'They are maintaining confidentiality of the identity of the bidder.

'They've shared it with the district council, which has to be involved because of planning, so that's why they're in the loop,

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'There may well be legitimate commercial confidentiality reasons to keep the identity of the potential purchaser confidential, but it's a frustrating situation that we're faced with.'

Mr Lamb was told the bidder was 'very keen on the site' and its plans fitted into a master plan, which states any future schemes at Coltishall should meet one of four criteria:

n Provide an appropriate aviation use

n Covert the buildings into employment use

n Establish a green energy scheme

n Revert it back to agricultural use

'Those are four options and it could be any one of those or a combination of those, so it's fairly broad,' Mr Lamb added.

'What has been excluded, which is important for the local community, is the use of the site for a substantial housing development.'

No more details of the mystery buyer or its intentions for the site will be announced until a contract has been agreed, Mr Lamb was told, and if a sale does not go ahead, Coltishall will be put back on the market.

The MoJ, which bought the base after it closed in 2006, went back to previous bidders after Stansted-based TAG withdrew its plans earlier this month, citing funding changes.

The company's withdrawal left widespread disappointment as it would have created nearly 400 full-time jobs and looked set to provide a huge boost to the area's economy.

Mr Lamb stressed this in the meeting and the importance of employment being at the heart of any scheme that takes over the site.

He said: 'They have a duty to get the best deal they can for government coffers, but they're mindful of the importance of acting in the interest of the community.

'It was helpful (the meeting) but obviously frustrating because there's this period of uncertainty for everyone and particularly the community.

'There are people who put themselves forward for possible employment who will have felt very deflated when TAG fell through and we're waiting now to find out whether new opportunities will emerge.'

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