Norfolk celebrates as RAF Marham is saved
For thousands of families the worry was over last night as the community around Norfolk's last RAF flying base celebrated after months of uncertainty.
The relief was visible at Marham yesterday afternoon as news the village's RAF base had survived the latest defence cuts sunk in.
The Rainbow Centre and other education facilities in the village, which would have closed had the base's Tornado fleet moved north of the border, were a hive of laughter and smiles from both parents and children. For the quaint village shop, bright community centre and the social club was also 'business as usual' as service personnel and their families carried on their daily routine in the knowledge the base is safe for at least six years. But campaigners last night told the EDP they are now looking to secure the long-term future of the base by pushing for Marham to be the home of the forthcoming Joint Strike Fighter.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, whose constituency covers RAF Marham, said: 'The announcement was brilliant news for the community around the base and the wider Norfolk community.
'Obviously people at the base are the most affected and it is so important when you have service personel in Libya and Afghanistan that their familes have confidence what the future holds for them.
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'In reality people would have had to move quite a long way because the alternative bases were in Scotland and the children would have to change schools and cope with the upheaval so it is not hard to see why the community is celebrating.'
Keely Radden-Rutt, manageress of RAF Marham thrift shop, which raises money to help community projects in the village, had been worried that the base closure would 'kill the village off'.
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But yesterday she said: 'Everyone has been walking around with big smiles on their faces since it was announced the base is staying open. There is a general sense of relief around here.'
There was a buzz of excitement at the nearby Rainbow Centre, which caters for children aged three months to 12 years in the village and thrives on the Tornado base.
Centre manager Dee Gent added: 'Everyone here is over-the-moon with the news.
'Some of the staff and parents have been ecstatic because it is the security of knowing where they will be living for the foreseeable future.'
Kerrie Osler, deputy manager at the centre, said she was delighted with the news because the local community will continue to thrive.
She continued: 'It is also going to help towns like Downham Market and Swaffham which rely on the thousands of people in Marham going there.'
Janine Pitcher, the centre's pre-school co-ordinator, added: 'The majority of kids here are RAF children so there has been relief amongst parents dropping their children off today that the wait is now over and the base is staying open.
'It was a long wait for all of us and I wanted Marham to stay open because the school would have had to shut if the base had closed.'
Marham Infant and Junior schools also faced an uncertain future but their playgrounds were packed with children's laughter and smiling teachers yesterday after the announcement by Defence Secretary Liam Fox on Monday,
Graham Dickson, headteacher at the village's junior school, said: 'We are delighted that at the moment Marham seems safe and glad that our 90 year association with the RAF will continue for the foreseeable future.
'It is very early days to notice any major difference in the children or parents but there has been a sense of relief around the community.'
Michaela Webb, headteacher at the infant school, added: 'We were always very confident things would work out for the best. I am very pleased for the families and children but most of all this fantastic community.
'The base does a lot for the community and community does a lot for the base. It is a brilliant relationship and I am glad it will continue.'