A massive solar farm, which would be one of the biggest in England, could cover half the former RAF Coltishall site, with a mystery developer in talks with council bosses about the proposal.
The controversial redevelopment of the former
RAF Coltishall base has hit another stumbling block, after Broadland District Council objected to a proposal to dig up part of the runway.
Former RAF Coltishall steward who was on the base during the Second World War revisits historic site.
Decision on RAF Coltishall runway removal
delayed a month
Norfolk County Council contractor Lafarge Tarmac’s application to dig up the runway extensions on the former Battle of Britain fighter station were expected to be debated by the council’s planning regulatory committed this Friday.
But a county hall spokesman said the issue had been deferred to the following meeting on April 25 - to ensure that all statutory consultees had a chance to respond before it went to committee, and for more information to be received.
The plans have caused major concerns among locals, over the volume of lorry traffic - up to 100 lorry movements a day - that could go through a residential area, and would ruin any potential aviation use of the site.
English Heritage has also objected over fears the scheme would harm the airbase conservation Area and some blast walls from the airfield’s Cold War era.
Norfolk County Council PR 12256 - 24 February 2014 [For Immediate
Cabinet asked to approve development partner for former RAF Coltishall
Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet meet next week (Monday 3 March) to consider a report asking that a private sector Development Partner should be appointed for the ‘Officer’s Mess’ housing scheme on the former RAF Coltishall site.
Cabinet will hear that following a competitive procurement process, Morgan Sindall is being recommended as the preferred development partner offering the best quality and value for money for the County Council.
The Council’s ‘Development Vision’ for the former base includes proposals to develop that area of the site for housing and the County Council has always been open and transparent about this possibility.
The report which Cabinet Members will be discussing includes the potential redevelopment opportunities of the Officer’s Mess. It is considered that the most commercially viable option is for Norfolk County Council to redevelop the site for open market sale.
Given the nature of the housing development, and in order to minimise the financial risks for the Council in taking forward a commercial housing scheme, the report proposes that the Council delivers the scheme in conjunction with a private sector development partner with a proven track record of successful commercial housing development.
The development is anticipated to have a cost of approximately £10 million. The house building company are anticipated to fund the costs of the development.
The emerging Officer’s Mess redevelopment proposals seek to retain the part of the complex which has significant heritage value, some demolition, as well as areas of new build development. The aim is to create a high quality residential scheme which retains the Officers’ Mess building with a viable use and complements the character of existing development in the area.
Vehicular access to the site would remain from Jaguar Drive only, but there is potential to create walking and cycling routes to the north using existing routes.
Norfolk County Council is working with North Norfolk and Broadland district councils, English Heritage and other stakeholders on managing change to any heritage assets and their settings.
Commenting on the report George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “The future development of the RAF Coltishall site is an excellent opportunity for the Council to boost the economy by bringing the site back into productive use as a key economic asset for the benefit of local people and the wider Norfolk economy.
“I am pleased that progress is being made and I am sure that the redevelopment of the Officer’s Mess site for housing will not only create employment in the construction industry and opportunities for local businesses in that sector, but will provide a commercial return to the Council on its investment in the site and provide much needed local housing.”
It is anticipated that a planning application for the Officer’s Mess proposals will be submitted in May.
More than 50 people crammed into Badersfield’s church hall last night and applauded Scottow Parish Council’s unanimous objections to a planning application for former RAF Coltishall.
An extraordinary meeting of the parish council discussed Norfolk County Council contractor Lafarge Tarmac’s application to dig up the runway extensions on the Battle of Britain air base.
The plan could see up to 100 HGV movements a day through the residential community of Badersfield as an estimated 140,000 tonnes of aggregate was taken away for recycling in county road projects.
The county council hopes the scheme would help it recoup some of the £4.1m it spent buying the site.
An hour-long discussion involving residents and parish councillors, before the vote, turned into an outpouring of anger, bewilderment and suspicion all aimed at the county council, with no-one present talking in favour of the application.
Steve Riley, Badersfield spokesman on the council’s RAF Coltishall community liaison reference group, condemned the “undemocratic” decision to dig up the runway which he claimed had never been discussed at a cabinet meeting and appeared to have been agreed behind closed doors at County Hall.
Mr Riley also said that throughout liaison group meetings and during an eight-week public consultation period about the future of the base the county council had always talked about removing aggregate via the north end of the runway, avoiding the Badersfield community. The route proposed in the application, through a housing estate, was “wholly wrong”.
Parish councillor Jason Baxter said the base’s importance in the Second World War was recognised but he was concerned that not enough attention had been paid to its Cold War significance. Destroying the runway extensions would “chip away” at this heritage.
County councillor Nigel Dixon, who represents Scottow, advised the parish council to stick to planning reasons in its formal objection to the plan.
He suggested that these could be the impact of runway removal on the RAF Coltishall conservation area, linked to English Heritage’s similar objections.
Mr Dixon also said the parish council could register its fears about contamination and ask for an environmental impact assessment to be carried out.
As a member of the planning committee which would decide the application, Mr Dixon said it would be wrong of him to discuss the plan’s merits.
Concerns raised among members of the public present included the danger of HGVs in an area with large numbers of children, and noise and pollution during the 18-month scheme.
There was widespread agreement that removing any part of the runway would wreck chances of attracting aircraft businesses to the site and condemnation of the county council for its lack of a business plan.
Parish council chairman Simon Shaw concluded: “I think everyone is in total agreement. It would be crazy to remove the runway and certainly the route they have chosen is absolutely ludicrous.”
The county council will decide the application on March 21.
A question mark has been placed over proposals to redevelop the former RAF Coltishall base, after heritage watchdogs objected to proposals to dig up part of the runway.
Norfolk County Council bought the base for £4m in January last year and hopes to recoup some of its investment by removing the ends of the runway and using an estimated 140,000 tonnes of aggregates for road improvement schemes, such as the £19m Postwick Hub junction near Norwich.
The decision on whether to grant planning permission for the ends of the runway to be dug up rests with the council, but English Heritage has written to the authority urging it to turn down the application, which has been submitted by council contractor Lafarge Tarmac.
The letter says: “English Heritage considers that the removal of these runway extenstions would neither preserve, nor enhance, the character or appearance of the conservation area, but would result in harm to this, and the designated blast walls within the base.”
English Heritage say, on the basis of the information submitted, the application should be refused, because it would “result in harm to two designated heritage assets, namely the RAF Coltishall Conservation Area and the Scheduled eastern grouping of Cold War era blast walls”.
The letter adds that, although the southern grouping of Cold War era blast walls are not a designated heritage asset, they are “demonstrably the equivalent of a Scheduled Monument”.
They argue that removing parts of the runway would “change our understanding of the designated blast walls and therefore would result in harm to their significance.”
The letter says national planning policies require “great weight” to be given to conserving designated heritage assets and that harm must be “weighed against any wider public benefits”.
It continues: “Given the degree of harm that would result from this proposal, English Heritage would expect that a high level of public benefit would be required to outweigh that harm”, before adding it is “unclear” from the application what is proposed to address that.
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “A report is being drawn up for members to consider next month and we continue to encourage people to respond to the planning application. Members of the public have up to March 20 to give their views.”
The application will be considered by the county’s planning sub committee on Friday, March 21 2014.
NEW BID FOR RAF COLTISHALL
£1.25m bid for a museum, hotel and training centre at RAF Coltishall – with 800 new jobs
A Norfolk businessman has revealed he is pulling together a £1.25 million proposal to turn RAF Coltishall into a museum, hotel and training centre, which he believes could create up to 800 jobs.
Basil Todd, who owns the Wensum Valley Hotel and Golf Club, said he had been dreaming about the venture for the past eight years but now feels the time is right to push forward to make it a reality.
The 72-year-old, who lives at Welborne near Dereham, is a honorary president for the Spirit of Coltishall, a group set up when the base was disbanded in 2006 to perpetuate the memory of the station.
His involvement with the group came through his love of aviation and interest in the RAF and then by holding golf days and functions for RAF crews at Wensum Valley. He even has a Spirit of Coltishall room at the hotel adorned with photographs and artwork depicting the glory days of the base.
“I don’t want to see anyone digging the runway up, pulling down the officers’ mess or building houses,” he said.
“I want to take the whole thing on.
“My plan is to create a Cold War museum, linking in with the Royal Air Force Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead which would provide about 40 jobs. The officers’ mess would become a hotel, employing around 40 people and also be a training centre so young people from City College could come in and learn the hospitality trade. I’ve got a great team here at Wensum Valley but they all had to have training to get it right.
“The hotel would have an authentic RAF theme, recreating pilot’s bedrooms and pictures of aircraft on the walls.
“There is a big hall which would be a wonderful venue for dinners or wedding receptions.”
Outside in the hangars he would want to set up a training centre for aircraft engineering, from engines to air frames to hydraulics, electronics and instruments. He said he already has around 100 contacts with qualified personnel who can teach and take classes.
He would also like to see some of the 600 acres used for horticulture and ground maintenance courses providing apprenticeships as well as training places.
He also wants to provide a headquarters for Air Training Cadets with a light aircraft and glider training facility.
Mr Todd said to get everything up and running would cost about £1.25 million but he would also be prepared to buy the officers’ mess outright or even the whole site if current owners Norfolk County Council agreed.
Mr Todd said he had written to the council stating his intention to set up a charitable trust to purchase the airbase “with an agreed payback to the council over a defined period to reimburse the council taxpayers for their investment”. He added: “I personally could commence with the purchase of the former officer’s mess as a sign of my commitment and sincerity.”
He believes income from visitors to the museum would be enough to support the project on its own.
“I could see 100,000 visitors a year plus more for an air show which I would expect to hold once a year.
“I have proved what I can do here at Wensum Valley. I have created a 100-bed hotel, 1500-member leisure club with 100 employees from an old turkey farm. I think a hotel at Coltishall would do very well and I think altogether we could be creating 800 jobs.
“From my point of view it is not about the money it could make. It is about giving something back to Norfolk.”
Tom McCabe, interim director of environment, transport and development at the county council, said they were happy to consider any enquiries from interested parties.
NCC Councillors visit Coltishall Memorial Rooms
At the request of our Chairman, Members of the RAF Coltishall Community Liaison Reference Group (CLRG) from Norfolk County Council (NCC) were invited to the RAF Coltishall Memorial Rooms at The Air Defence Radar Museum, Neatishead on Thursday 18 October 2012. The NCC visitors were:
Cllr Cliff Jordan - Cabinet Member for Efficiency
Cllr Janet Murphy – Deputy Cabinet Member for Efficiency
Mike Jackson, Director of ETD, NCC, David Gurney Historic Environment Manager NCC
Gary Underhill NCC
The purpose of the invitation was to illustrate the reasons why SoCA would be recommending places on the site that warranted recognition regarding the history of RAF Coltishall. A guided tour of the Coltishall collection was considered to be an ideal way of relating people and events to a timeline of the station’s history and showing that the history is not only regarding WWII, but a period that stretches through the Cold War, Cuba, Bosnia and the first Gulf War. This is why SoCA is against any attempt to destroy the infrastructure of the base.
The guests were given an introduction by the Radar Museum Manager, Chris Morshead, who subsequently handed over to Dave Welsh and Peter Goodwin for the tour of the Coltishall Collection. The tour not only covers the warring elements of the squadrons but also seeks to explain some of the traditions as well. At the end of the tour the party stated that they had found the visit most informative.
After the visit, a short question and answer session took place during which Cllr Jordan was asked if there had been any further thoughts on the old control tower building becoming a heritage centre if their purchase of the site went ahead. Cllr Jordan replied that it was not possible at this stage to say what buildings would be used for although he thought the control tower could become a restaurant.
Cllr Jordan also stated that the purchase of the site was nearing completion but that delays had occurred owing to NCC making sure that the purchase would be in the best financial interest of all Norfolk taxpayers. He would not comment on the future use of the site at that time. An excellent message of thanks was received by Dave Welsh and the Museum Manager
THE SPIRIT OF COLTISHALL ASSOCIATION - POSITION STATEMENT AUGUST 2012
The constitutional Aim of the Spirit of Coltishall Association is the preservation of the history and memory of RAF Coltishall and to undertake and support any activity that helps to achieve this Aim
· This is probably the last opportunity to preserve an RAF Expansion Period station with such a rich and significant history ranging from the Battle of Britain, through the Cold War, to recent operational activity such as Bosnia and the Gulf Wars – it must be grasped and developed commercially in a way sympathetic to the site’s heritage.
· Whatever scheme is developed for the former RAF Coltishall, it should preserve as much of the infrastructure of the station as possible in keeping with its status as a significant military heritage site and a designated conservation area.
· In our view, retaining the site in its entirety means retaining the runway and its associated infrastructure. This the best way of retaining the full features of the History of the station. The erection of any inappropriate facilities’ on the runway should not be allowed.
· No scheme should be discounted without proper appraisal. The possibility of aviation or testing use could create sufficient funds to generate funding of the buildings, exploit them for commercial purposes and thus bring more employment to the area.
· The site should have a dedicated and staffed Heritage Centre to provide key information and to guide visitors in what they are seeing around them when visiting the station. We are convinced this can be achieved without seriously affecting other local military and aviation museums.
· Our aim is to see a site that encompasses all of the History and includes the infrastructure with a meaningful Heritage trail that we and the people of Norfolk can take our children and grand children to so that they can fully grasp the layout, appearance and significance of RAF Coltishall as a major county and national asset throughout its 66 year history.
Issued on behalf of
The Spirit of Coltishall Association
The Future of RAF Coltishall Committee
Further info will be made available on the Members Only Pages
Update...... Norwich County Council members were invited by SoCA to visit the Coltishall Memorial Rooms to gain an insight into what RAF Coltishall meant to Norfolk. Photos are on the Photo Pagehere to edit text.
The Spirit of Coltishall padre, Reverend Elizabeth Bailey took the service of over 100 people during which a wreath was laid by the Badersfield community, RAF Marham and the Spirit of Coltishall.
Spirit of Coltishall Memorial
The 18th November is the anniversary of the unfortunate loss of Master Air Load Master David Bullock GM. A number of SoCA members gathered to remember the sad occasion and pay their respects to the two crew members.
A SoCA wreath was laid by Hazel Kinswood and a Flower of Remembrance by Nanette Olson.