Towns will be boosted by Marham’s bright future
- Credit: IAN BURT
The benefits of RAF Marham's future being secured will ripple outwards to give nearby towns an economic shot in the arm, say business and community leaders.
And people living in Downham Market will have the chance to celebrate when they turn out for a homecoming parade being held in the town tomorrow.
Mayor Robin Pegg (pictured) said the news had given the town a boost because it was so closely linked to the base.
'It's really good news for everyone,' he said.
'We work very closely with the base, and I should think that all the businesses in the town are pleased.
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'We support them and they support us, so everything is looking good for the town.'
Margaret Key, president of the suspended Chamber of Trade, said the news would help to keep Downham Market on the up, with trade from the thousands of personnel on the base benefiting the town.
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'It's clearly very good for the town, and we are very pleased the government have finally made a decision,' she said.
'We are very grateful to Liz Truss and Henry Bellingham because they have kept us well in the face of the government.
'It's a lot more than just the retailers who will benefit – we hope it will be the whole town.'
Helen Fradley, owner of the Castle Hotel in Downham Market with her husband Howard, estimated that between 10pc and 15pc of the hotel's business comes from RAF Marham.
'Anyone who does food or accommodation can only be happy,' she said.
'Sometimes we get the pilots staying if they've not got any spare rooms at the base. We also get a lot from BAE Systems, which has been working up there too.
'It's not just us who benefit either – if they stay with us they go to the curry house, or they go out into town.
'It would have been dreadful if they had gone elsewhere. We would be lost without them.'
The news has also been welcomed by estate agents, who said that the closure of the base would have been 'disastrous'.
Adam King, branch partner at William H Morris in Downham Market said about 30pc of all the agency's transactions related directly or indirectly to RAF Marham.
'It's hugely important. When there was the speculation before, we saw a lot of pilots and other personnel holding off buying because they didn't have the security over their futures,' he said.
'The market would have been devastated in this area if they had gone.'
Closer to the base, Fincham landlord James Bryant said he was relieved at the announcement, as airmen from the base were regulars in his pub.
'Quite a few of them come down to drink,' said Mr Bryant, who runs the Swan in the High Street. 'It could make a difference of 20pc to 25pc to trade.
'Sometimes they have their leaving dos here, and you get 25 of them down at a time. They drank a whole barrel one day, but they are never any trouble.'
Mr Bryant said trade from RAF Marham had been steady during his eight years running the pub, and since it had started doing Thai food a large proportion of the takeaway orders had come from the base.
'If the base had gone, it would have made life extremely difficult,' he said.
'The pub trade is bad enough as it is, so that would have made it very, very hard.'
Barry Johnson, owner of King's Store in the village, said he had previously had contracts to supply the base though he did not see staff regularly in his newsagents.
'It pays off for the area, but I think they go to Swaffham or to King's Lynn to spend their money more than they do in my shop,' he said.
'But within a radius of 20 or 30 miles, having 4,000 people spending their money has to be a good thing.'