Make it Marham campaign takes off for London

Make it Marham campaigners set off for London today to put the case for saving Norfolk's last RAF flying base.

They will be meeting Defence Secretary Liam Fox for talks this afternoon, after delivering a petition with nearly 37,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.

By close of play yesterday , a staggering 36,940 people had signed up in support of the campaign.

Our delegation today includes MPs Elizabeth Truss, George Freeman, Norman Lamb, Simon Wright, Keith Simpson, Brandon Lewis, Chloe Smith and Richard Bacon.

They will be accompanied by Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy, West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney, county councillor Ann Steward, Swaffham Mayor Ian Sherwood, EDP editor Peter Waters and KL.FM journalist Alix Young.

Conservative Ms Truss, whose South West Norfolk consituency includes RAF Marham, said: 'In only 14 days we have collected more than 30,000 supporters.

'This has been an absolutely fantastic effort by the people of Norfolk.

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'We cannot allow politics to trump the key economic and military arguments for RAF Marham and this is the case we will be presenting to Number 10 and the Secretary of State for Defence.'

West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said: 'The support has been amazing. Downing Street shouldn't be in any doubt what local feeling is.

'If it's to the economic case and local feeling case we would have no worries.'

Campaigners say there are compelling reasons to choose Marham as the country's main Tornado base, on both economic and military grounds.

The aircraft are currently based at Marham and RAF Lossiemouth.

A single squadron of Tornado fighters, which is based at RAF Leuchars, is due to disband next year as the base moves over to the new Typhoon aircraft.

Twice as many people are employed at RAF Marham, which supports around 5,200 jobs, than RAF Lossiemouth, which employs some 2,600.

RAF Marham is situated in a far more deprived area of the UK, with 7.4pc unemployment, compared to a jobless rate of 4.8pc around the Lossiemouth area of Scotland

It would cost at least �50m to move the maintenance facilities which look after the aircraft and their complex weapons and surveillance systems elsewhere.

The avionics workshops were relocated to Marham just five years ago, bringing hundreds of civilian contarctors to the Norfolk base.

RAF Marham is well located for the ongoing war in Afghanistan, as Tornados do not need in-flight refuelling to get to their forward operating base.

RAF Marham is also located close to the USAF bases at Lakenheath and Mildenhall allowing for greater collaboration with our allies in future.

The petition was launched with a stall at Swaffham town centre on Saturday, November 13.

MPs, councillors, volunteers, businesses and journalists from the ED and KL.FM joined forces in support.

Supermarkets, shops, cafes all presented petitions on their premises. Celebrities and sporting personalities who have supported the campaign include Amanda Holden, Delia Smith and Darren Huckerby.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said: 'The reaction from people has been incredible and we've been absolutely bowled over by the support.

'The economic and military rationale to keep RAF Marham open has always been very strong, but to be able to add to that the backing of more than 36,000 people makes our case impossible to ignore.

'An estimated 7,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate the strength of of feeling for saving RAF Lossiemouth.

'In a little over two weeks, 36,000 people have come out fighting for RAF Marham and this overwhelming backing shows the government how much this base means to us.'

Follow our delegation to London's progress throughout a vital day for ther future of Norfolk's economy.

Don't miss our live updates on And see tomorrow's EDP for a full report on the day we took our campaign to 10 Downing Street.