By RICHARD BATSON
Friday, July 13, 2012
Officials are firming up their plans to re-use the old RAF Coltishall after consulting a think tank of local people.
Norfolk County Council is poised the buy the former Battle of Britain fighter station site from the Ministry of Justice in September and use it for a mixture of farming, industry and heritage tourism.
Early ideas have now been shared with a community group, which is being consulted as the plans are driven forward.
The initial session, involving 30 people such as councillors, local residents, the Spirit of Coltishall Association and the HMP Bure prison next door, heard that an initial exchange of contracts had taken place with the MoJ.
The council’s ideas include: commercial development which could create hundreds of jobs, returning the runways to agriculture, walking and cycling routes and a circular heritage trail linking second world war and Cold War monuments.
County Archaeologist David Gurney stressed the council’s commitment to preserving the heritage of the site and invited ideas on how it should best be presented.
He said: “There is no public access at the moment. I’m very keen that we make the very best of the heritage and bring it back to life for everyone to learn from and enjoy.” The council has faced criticism from some locals about lack of consultation over its plans.
Chairman of the community liaison reference group Cliff Jordan, added: “This could be a real jewel in the tourism crown of Norfolk, but we want the view of this group to make sure we get it right.”
The meeting heard that some of the buildings on site were in poor condition, but the council had set aside money to stop them deteriorating further. The MoJ said contamination levels in the ground showed the main airfield should be be suitable for return to farming.
Mike Britch from the county’s NPS property arm said existing buildings could be put to good use by businesses and said there was already interest from firms - including some outside Norfolk.
The council reiterated it did not see a future for the site as an airfield and wanted to remove the runway to maximise agricultural potential. Aggregate could be recycled for a variety of uses, including roads, but the council would look at setting up assigned lorry routes, physical barriers, speed and width restrictions to minimise traffic disruption to local communities.
Mr Jordan said after a “very positive” first meeting: “We are still at an early stage in our thinking, but we want to develop our ideas with people. We are very optimistic about the site and its future.”
The group will meet again in a few weeks’ time.