RAF Marham is key to lives of many in community

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that Marham was the same as the majority of rural villages around the county – if not the country.

There is a quaint village shop, bright community centre, stunning scenery as far as the eye can see and hardly any traffic clogging up the narrow roads.

But Marham has something the others don't – a Tornado base which employs more than 5,100 people and accommodates most of their families.

Everywhere you look there are reminders of RAF Marham in the village and the community's livelihood depends on the Tornado base staying in west Norfolk.

It is not surprising, therefore, that villagers, businesses and schools are on tenterhooks over the possibility of the village losing one of its oldest friends.

Keely Radden-Rutt, manageress of RAF Marham thrift shop, which raises money to help community projects in the village, said: 'If the base were to close it will have a big impact on everyone here and be detrimental to the area.

'The closure could kill the village off because it's not only the RAF personnel that would leave, it would be thousands of civilians as well.

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'Everything here revolves around the base and I can't really think of how this village will be able to carry on without RAF Marham.

'It's also going to have an impact on the surrounding towns like Downham Market and Swaffham because if you take away thousands of shoppers, I can't see the little shops surviving.'

*To sign the petition visit www.gopetition.com/petition/40578

Barbara Pasco runs a burger van directly outside the entrance to RAF Marham and also has a hairdressing business inside the Tornado base –both will shut if the base is closed.

She said: 'I will get 100pc behind anything that will keep it open because it would be devastating for everyone here. We all want to see an end to this uncertainty and to know one way or another what is the future for RAF Marham.

'It must be really hard for those in the RAF not knowing where they and their families are going to be by this time next year.

'It must also be unsettling for the families and it is just cruel that we will have to wait until next year for the decision.'

The Rainbow Centre, which caters for children aged three months to 12 years in the village, thrives on the Tornado base and would also face closure if the government opted to keep RAF Lossiemouth open.

Debbie Rose, nursery assistant, said: 'I rely on a full time job to pay my mortgage but I might not have a job here if RAF Marham is closed.

'There are also lots of villages around Marham which rely on this centre. The community is very focused around RAF Marham and there are strong objections here to the base closing.'

Centre manager Dee Gent added: 'It will be devastating for everyone here if it is closed.'

Nearby Marham Junior School would also face an uncertain future if ministers decide to base the RAF's Tornado fleet north of the Border.

Headteacher Graham Dickson said: 'The closure of RAF Marham would be the end of 90 years association between the village and the RAF and it would drastically change the nature of this school.

'Most of our children are from RAF families and there would be a lot of disruption here if the base closed.

'The worst thing about all of this is the uncertainty and waiting till next spring does nobody any good.

'If money needs to be saved and RAF Marham is the cheaper option then it can be the only solution.

'Without the RAF children at our school we would only have about 20 children and we would be closed.

'This all comes just as we spend �100,000 improving the building here – which will obviously be a big waste of money if we lose the majority of our pupils.'

*To sign the petition visit www.gopetition.com/petition/40578*

Villager Samantha Duncan may have been brought up in Lossiemouth but she is rooting for Marham in the clash of the Tornado bases.

She moved to Norfolk with her two children, Brooke, three, and JJ, one, after her husband James, a survival equipment fitter, was posted to the RAF base.

She said: 'I am from Lossiemouth so I know the situation going on up there. My mum is a taxi driver up there and she is terrified about the base closure. But for me it is the uncertain future of this base that I am more worried about and if it did close it would have a massive impact on my life.

'The Rainbow Centre has been fantastic for us and my daughter has come on leaps and bounds at this place. It would be a real shame if we have to leave the nursery.

'We are all settled here and the community has been very welcoming. It would be a major loss to Norfolk if it closed and I am really hoping it isn't.

'If you think of all the RAF personnel and civilians here and everyone leaving the village, the impact to places elsewhere will be horrific.

'There are a lot of children that are mainly from RAF families and this closure threat is unsettling for all of us.'

She added: 'There are good arguments for both and I think it could go either way.'

Businessman Jim Carlile, who owns department store Reeds in Downham Market, fears for the future of shops in the town if RAF Marham is closed.

He said: 'It would be a huge loss to the town and the community here. It would also be devastating for West Norfolk as a whole.

'The base is integrated into every aspect of life in Downham Market. The children go to the schools here and their parents shop here and in the rest of the town.

'When I looked at buying Reeds I looked at what was in the area and one of the key factors was Marham.

'RAF Marham personnel using this store has also been a key factor in the recent success of this store.'

He added: 'I have asked Downham Market Town Council to send a letter questioning the situation and show our support for the base so I hope the council can.'

*To sign the petition visit www.gopetition.com/petition/40578*