Mystery buyers for RAF site

RICHARD PARR Owners of a former Norfolk airbase, severely criticised for their lack of action in re-developing the 185-acre, have sold it.

RICHARD PARR

Owners of a former Norfolk airbase, severely criticised for their lack of action in re-developing the 185-acre, have sold it.

The former RAF West Raynham, which includes 172 empty and decaying houses, has been bought for an undisclosed sum by an unidentified client of the Norwich office of Humberts.

The sale was an off-market transaction and spokesman for the vendors, Briony Mathams, said the buyers' identity will not be made public until Monday .

The site, which has stood empty and falling into decay for more than a decade, at a time when thousands of north Norfolk people were waiting for affordable property, was acquired from the Ministry of Defence just over 12 months ago in a joint venture by Hodge Homes of Cardiff and The Welbeck Estate of Wells, Somerset.

At the time the company announced plans for the creation of a new community at West Raynham, complete with housing, shops and public transport services. Plans included the multi-million pound refurbishment of the larger living quarters.

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However, in August this year the company admitted it was having problems and installing the necessary infrastructure was taking a lot longer than envisaged.

In a statement last night the companies said: “The decision to release the site and sell it on had not been taken lightly but was made easier as we felt the site had been transferred into a safe pair of hands”.

The purchaser, described as a specialist in restoring major buildings and environments, is said to have “good local knowledge, expertise and connections to satisfy both the demands of such a project and that of the local community”.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb criticised the Ministry of Defence for selling the important site to Hodge Homes and The Welbeck Estate, a company he considered that did not have a sustainable development plan for the site and which have now “just flogged it off”.

Mr Lamb believes that the MoD should only have sold such an important site as West Raynham, in close liaison with the local authority and other agencies, to a company that had a clear plan of what it was going to do on the site.

“The priority now is to get the site back into use and end the scandal of dereliction that has afflicted the site for so long and to help address the problem of acute shortage of housing in north Norfolk ,” said Mr Lamb.

Mr Lamb continued his criticism of the Ministry of Defence's original sale of the site. “It was clearly aiming for the most cash with no real interest in the impact on the community and that's disgraceful,” he said.

NNDC deputy leader Virginia Gay said that the authority had worked very hard to achieve a favourable outcome at West Raynham. “The results have been disappointing so far and we hope there will be better news in the future.”

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