Norfolk unites to Make it Marham

Politicians and business leaders have joined forces to save RAF Marham.

Losing the base would be a body blow to the region's economy, with more than 5,000 directly employed on the station and thousands more wage packets depending on it.

It would also cost the nation dearly in defence terms if expertise currently based in Norfolk were relocated elsewhere.

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss led an adjournment debate over the future of the base in the House of Commons on Thursday night.

Defence minister of state Nick Harvey said a decision was not likely to be announced until next spring, adding that the government was determined to 'get it right'.

Last night Ms Truss said: 'I am delighted to see the launch of the Make it Marham campaign.

'The people of Norfolk are not going to take the loss of such a vital facility lying down and will fight to make Marham the home of the UK's Tornado fleet.'

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A delegation will be travelling from Norfolk to London to put Marham's case on November 30, taking a petition which they are urging Norfolk people to sign.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have a tight timescale to make this strength of feeling known, so let's unite quickly for the good of our county.

'We are still recovering from the loss of both RAF Coltishall and RAF Neatishead in 2008. The loss of RAF Marham would be even more damaging to Norfolk and the surrounding area.

'The base is worth around �130m to the economy of our area. Losing it would have a catastrophic impact on businesses supplying the base, local shops, leisure facilities and public services would inevitably suffer greatly.

'In both economic and military terms, retaining RAF Marham is the only option and we want the people of Norfolk to join us in making this as clear as possible to the government.'

Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk council, said: 'If the government makes its decision based on cost-effectiveness, then we can be confident about the future of the Tornado fleet at RAF Marham.

'But we cannot be complacent. The livelihoods of many of us, the success of our businesses and the future for many of our young people depend upon the retention of RAF Marham as a front-line flying base along with the supporting activities of BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.

'Together they are a crucial and very welcome part of our community and so, as a community, we must stand together and leave the government in absolutely no doubt as to why they must Make it Marham.'

Ann Steward, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for sustainable development, said: 'Norfolk has already suffered greatly by the loss of RAF bases. We simply cannot afford to lose RAF Marham as well.

'The salaries of the 5,000 employees, and their families, which jointly make up the 8,000 strong community, go directly into our local economy. Our businesses earn vital revenue from supplying the base.

'Overall, we estimate that the base being in Norfolk is worth �130m to our economy.

'Much like the basis of our A11 dualling campaign, the financial benefits to Norfolk are clear and I encourage the people of Norfolk to swiftly lend their voice to this campaign.'

Many service personnel and their families live in the Nar Valley, where Janet Murphy is the local county councillor.

'If the community of Marham all lived in one location, the 8,000 strong community would be the third biggest town in West Norfolk, after King's Lynn and Downham Market,' she said.

'The impact of losing the base on both an economic and social level is clear – it would simply be a disaster for Norfolk and especially West Norfolk.

'We have a two-week period to really come together and show just how much RAF Marham is worth to this area, so please sign the petition.'

Many also live in Breckland, where William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, said:

'Breckland Council enjoys excellent links with the armed forces in the district. Indeed RAF Marham has been chosen as the venue for our Pride in Breckland awards in March which I think demonstrates what an integral part of our community the RAF base is.

'Although located at the very edge of the district the positive influences, both social and economic are felt throughout Breckland and indeed Norfolk.

'I urge everyone in Norfolk to get behind the campaign to keep the Tornado aircraft at Marham.'

RAF Marham is one of Norfolk's 10 largest employers. Mark Hodges, chair of Shaping Norfolk's Future and the chief executive of Aviva UK, said: 'The closure of RAF Marham would have a devastating and irreversible impact on Norfolk, with it providing around one in 12 jobs in West Norfolk and contributing in excess of �130m per annum directly into the local economy.

'With the proposed closure of RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering, this area cannot afford to see a third base shut down, a base which is a centre of excellence and helps raise the aspirations and skills set of young people in the area.'

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said:

'It makes economic sense to develop RAF Marham, not just for Norfolk and its neighbouring areas, but for the UK.

'We need to articulate at all levels how much we value this jewel in our economic crown, as RAF Marham will be a key driver to developing Norfolk's economy and the creation of jobs in the future'.