David Cameron visits region to pledge infrastructure investment - but avoids road and rail in helictoper
- Credit: James Bass
Prime Minister David Cameron visited the region today to pledge investment in infrastructure - but avoided the region's road and rail by flying in by helicopter.
The prime minister laid bare plans for the future of RAF Marham and the benefits that housing the F35B Lightning Joint Strike Fighter jets will bring.
Mr Cameron said £300m would be invested in infrastructure and facilities to pave the way for the jets' arrival in 2018, creating 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.
Adding: 'I think the future for RAF Marham is very bright.
'I know from my time as an MP how reliable the Tornado has been from its work in Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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'We have made an announcement today are planning almost £300m investment potentially in infrastructure to get it ready for the Joint Strike Fighter. It will be good for RAF Marham because it remains a premier airbase and it is good for the local area because it is jobs and infrastrucutre.'
The prime minister's first stop on his 'long term economic plan' tour was Felixstowe port and he took to the skies avoiding Lowestoft's Bascule Bridge, just hours after a heated meeting about plans for a third crossing in the town.
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Questioned on how he had travelled, he said: 'I've been to Felixstowe, I'm now here (Lowestoft), I'm going off to RAF Marham to go and see the Tornado squadron, I'm going to Cambridge, so today I'm afraid I have made use of an Ministry of Defence helicopter.'
But he was also keen to point out that he was not solely flying, adding; 'I will also be doing a bit of driving, and I have used your train service before, and I will use it again shortly, I'm sure.'
The premier came straight from a speech in Felixstowe in Suffolk where he said East Anglia was a region whose infrastructure has lagged behind other parts of the country – but the current government was determined to give it a major boost.
Mr Cameron became the first Premier since Margaret Thatcher to visit the docks and told his audience that the business coming through the port had expanded 10 time since her visit in the 1980s.
He reeled off dossier of planned investment in the region, including already announced schemes such as the A47, but also announced:
<t> Support for the redevelopment of Drill Hall in Great Yarmouth to turn it into a centre for circus and street art entertainment
<t> To look at the potential expansion of the energy Enterprise Zone at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft
<t> Consider reviving the Wisbech-March-Ely line
<t> Seconding thirty new leaders to the most challenging schools in the East
<t> Developing a long-term plans for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science
Mr Cameron told guests at the port: 'Now, of course this will take time, and it won't be easy, but if we stick to the plan we will see a truly national recovery, with new economic life felt in every town and city in the east, and across our country. That is our ambition. That is what's really at stake with this long term economic plan, and that is why it's so important that we all work together to deliver it.'
Questioned on why he keeps returning to the East, he said: 'As Prime Minister I do an awful lot of regional tours because I think it's very important to get out and listen to business and listen to ordinary people and also we have an economic plan that applies to each region,' he said.
'I keep coming back because I want to keep adding to that plan and checking the progress – whether it's the A11, the Ipswich Chord, or the other roads. I think it's a very important part of my job.'
He backed Ipswich MP Ben Gummer's claims that the region could be 'The California of Europe.'
The Prime Minister said: 'I think he has a very good point because what this region has is the immense potential if you put together the science and technology, the energy and agriculture, the investment in defence, the very good universities, the business base.
'You put all those things together and you have real economic potential. It is not just that Cambridge has a great university and science park. It is what is happening in Norwich, it is what is happening in Ipswich. It is the high end in all those industries coming together.'
After leaving the Suffolk port, the Prime Minister turned apprentice during his visit to MS Oakes Joinery in Lowestoft, taught by the company's joining director Steve Butcher.
The 41-year-old, who started as an apprentice 25 years ago, was given a hand with his Douglas Fir Garage Door by the premier, which will be winging its way to Aldeburgh when it is complete.
'He was fine. He just got on with it and I think he enjoyed it. He was our new apprentice,' he said.
Mr Butcher said he had not yet decided how to vote in the upcoming election and was preoccupied with a busy order book.
'It is usually quiet after Christmas. This is the first year we have been stacked up after Christmas. We have been working long hours.'