Norfolk MPs “positive” as Marham announcement draws near

After months of uncertainty, the decision over the future of RAF Marham is expected to be announced by Defence Secretary Liam Fox this afternoon. And Norfolk politicians are quietly confident that the base will remain open.

This lunchtime, one senior aide said Norfolk's politicians were in bouyant mood as they prepared for this afternoon's announcement in the Commons.

'They're all very positive,' she said. 'But until he says what he's going to say nothing's certain. They'd all be shocked if Marham didn't remain a Tornado base.'

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is now expected to reveal the outcome of a review of RAF bases at 4.30pm.

Sources in London and Norfolk have told the EDP they believe ministers have agreed that the base should become the main home of the RAF's force of Tornado GR4 ground attack aircraft.

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That appeared to be borne out by the Scottish media, which is today reporting that RAF Leuchars is set to close.

Sources at Marham today said there had been no official notification, while the MoD said an announcement originally scheduled for 2.30pm was likely to be put back by some hours.

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BBC Scotland said: 'It is understood that Leuchars in Fife has lost its fight to stay open as an RAF base, although it may instead be used as an army barracks.'

It adds troops could be stationed at Kinloss - closed during a previous round of cuts - and RAF Lossiemouth would remain open.

British Forces News reports: 'The popular belief is that RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Marham will stay but RAF Leuchars will be turned into an Army base.'

Turning to the inevitable politics of the decision, the Scotsman explains: 'The choice in reality was no choice at all. If there was one base the RAF did not want to lose it was Marham, which also was conveniently surrounded by the constituencies of a host of coalition MPs.'

As well as crack squadrons which have been spearheading the recent international operation in Libya, Marham is home to the Tornado maintenance wing, which would cost an estimated �50m to relocate.

It is also worth an estimated �130m to Norfolk's economy - employing more than 5,000 in an area of higher than average unemployment.

Politicians and communities across the county united behind the EDP's Make it Marham campaign, which culminated in a 36,000-signature petition being delivered to 10 Downing Street.

Follow the link above for all the background on the campaign - and all the latest on Marham's involvement in the Libyan crisis.

An announcement is expected this afternoon. We'll be carrying the news as soon as it's announced, with full reaction and analysis from Parliament and across the county in tomorrow's EDP.

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