Norfolk campaign saves RAF Marham
You've done it Norfolk – that was the message from politicians last night, as it emerged RAF Marham had been saved.
Defence secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons yesterday afternoon that RAF Marham is safe –prompting a huge sigh of relief across Norfolk.
The announcement signalled a major victory for the Make it Marham campaign launched by the EDP and Norfolk County Council, and fully supported by the county's MPs. By the time a petition calling for the base to be saved was delivered to Downing Street, nearly 37,000 people had signed the document.
Mr Fox said that the Government had 'listened to communities' in reaching the decision as part of the current Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
'The security of the nation and the requirements of the defence of our nation was paramount in our analysis and we have also considered the impact on communities,' he said.
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'RAF Marham will remain as a base for Tornado GR4s,' he added.
South West Norfolk Elizabeth Truss, who has campaigned continuously for the base to be retained, described the news as 'fantastic for the people of Norfolk'.
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'I am absolutely delighted,' she said. 'The 'Make it Marham' cam-paign motivated everyone across Nor-folk to sign up and support the base.
'It is fantastic for the people of Norfolk and the staff and personnel of RAF Marham to know that the base is secure for the future.
'Particular praise must go to the EDP, who committed themselves to highlight the campaign to the wider public. The support by all local media organisations meant I could present the press cuttings to the prime minister on a regular basis.
'David Cameron was so familiar with the lobbying taking place that he once commented to me 'before you say anything Liz, I am fully aware of the Make it Marham campaign'.
'Account was also taken into the impact on local communities which paid a big part in the basing review.
'However, the campaign was not just based on a simple fondness for the RAF – it was founded on sound economic and strategic principles and I believe that resulted in the decisive decision to Make it Marham.'
Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said the victory showed what could be achieved when the county put up a united front.
'This is a stunning outcome proving what can be achieved when Norfolk and its leaders unite behind an issue with determination and speak with one voice. I cannot emphasise just how important this decision is for Norfolk, its residents and its businesses,' he added.
'RAF Marham employs around 5,000 staff which, including family members, amounts to a community of around 8,000 people and today's announcement preserves the base in the immediate future. Their incomes combined with the purchase of goods and services from local businesses contributes in excess of �130m to the local economy.
'The economic and military rationale for keeping RAF Marham open was always very strong, but the backing of more than 36,000 residents and businesses made our case impossible to ignore.
'When the very real threat of closure became apparent late last year, Norfolk united strongly behind the Make it Marham campaign launched by the county council and the EDP. Such was the powerful weight of evidence assembled, and the undeniable strength of our case, that decision-makers in Westminster had to sit up and take notice.'
West Norfolk Borough mayor Colin Sampson said: 'This is wonderful news. Just what we had hoped for during the long months of uncertainty. This is a triumph of common sense over political expediency and is just reward for the efforts of all sections of the community to ensure that RAF Marham continues in its role as the Tornado base.
'Now thousands of people can get on with normal living – even if that means dealing with the challenges of family members spending months away on tours in various parts of the world.'
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said: 'It's very good news indeed and it's absolutely the 100pc right decision on military grounds and I do not believe that would have happened if it did not have the very strong local media campaign.'
Breckland Council leader William Nunn said: 'This is fantastic news. I'm sure that the government has taken account of the huge support that has been demonstrated for the base both through local campaigning and by the petition to Downing Street with over 36,000 signatures.
'Breckland Council put its full weight behind the EDP campaign. The base makes a vital contribution to Breckland as forces personnel use local shops, schools and bus services, so this is good news for both residents and businesses in the district.'
George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP, said: 'This is fabulous news for Norfolk and for all those who have given so much service at Marham over the years. I'm delighted that the combined campaign led by the EDP and all the Norfolk MPs and many local bodies, not to mention the 30,000-strong petition, has triumphed. It shows what we can achieve when Norfolk speaks with one voice.'
Norwich South MP Simon Wright added: 'This announcement comes as a massive relief following a long period of uncertainty about the future of the base. The case for Marham was a very strong one, and I'm very pleased that ministers have recognised this.'
Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, also welcomed the decision: 'This is excellent news for the service people, their families and the whole Norfolk economy.'
Keith Simpson, Broadland MP, hailed Norfolk's spirit. He said: 'We are used to the Scots making a lot of noise and I think they might have thought we would take things quietly, but we didn't and I think ministers were impressed by that.'
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said 'I felt all along that the case for Marham was overwhelmingly strong on both military and economic grounds but the case had to be fought to be sure that the right decision was made. The right decision has been made and it's extremely good news for Norfolk.'