Once upon a time there were plans to build a world class Eco town on the ex RAF base at Coltishall. A Norfolk born developer submitted plans for a best in class development which he hoped would allow him to leave a legacy for local residents would enjoy.
However he found out, after spending a lot of money on his plans that the site would also have to house a prison. This was not in the original plans and he had to abandon all of his plans to leave a legacy development as the government of the day would not allow the sale of the land without the planned prison. A local community group was set up called Coltishall Eco Town Action Group (CETAG - http://cetag.webalistic.co.uk/?section=10786) to fight the planned development.
On 30 November 2006, RAF Coltishall was officially handed over to Defence Estates (the MoD agency responsible for all UK Military sites) who are to handle the disposal of the site, and will be formally known as MoD Coltishall until its ultimate disposal and HMP Bure was built
We then had the almost overnight transfer of the planned Eco town to another so called old airfield at Rackheath and the MoJ looked for a buyer for the rest of the sight although they were a little cagey about this as reported http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/government_urged_to_end_secrecy_and_name_the_raf_coltishall_bidders_1_800128.
The Ministry of Justice then in Jan 2011 confirmed TAG Aviation (Stansted) Ltd. as the preferred bidder for the ex RAF Coltishall site. We now hear after Tag Aviation pulled out that Norfolk County Council (NCC) are planning to buy the Coltishall site using public money to provide aggregate, from breaking up the runway and old buildings, for the construction of the proposed Northern Distributor Road (NDR).
The NCC Cabinet paper is here: http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/view/cabinet110612item8pdf
This is despite an alternative bid on the table from the Hans House Group of Companies that is fully funded by private equity money, without recourse to third party debt or public subsidy. Artemis/Hans House has publically announced its bid, which has the following elements:
- £4.1m cash to pay for all costs associated with the separation and reconnection of all main services to HMP Bure, estimated at £1.5m.
- A substantial budget to fit out and refurbish all key buildings to tenant’s specific requirements.
- The provision of “green” electricity sufficient for 100% requirement of HMP Bure for the next 20 years at the same price or less than the MoJ is currently paying.
- The gift of free accommodation to the Spirit of Coltishall Association, sufficient for it to create a Heritage Centre.
This situation beggars several questions as follows:
- Why is NCC planning to use public money to buy Coltishall when there is a viable bid on the table using private money and providing employment opportunities?
- What happens if they do buy it and the NDR does not go ahead?
- Isn’t the runway “listed” therefore preventing it from being dug up?
- How, if NCC plans were successful, would the local roads cope with the increase in haulage traffic transporting the aggregate? (Estimated 28,888 lorry movements along inadequate local roads and bridges).
The list of questions is never ending. However the over riding primary question has to be:
“How have we ended up in a situation whereby an old WWII airfield, that has been producing food for the last 60 years, is to be dug up to provide thousands of unnecessary houses. In order to service this planned development a dual carriageway, with 11 roundabouts, has to be built using aggregates from an old WWII airfield that will be dug up?”
Local residents now face the prospect of two ruined landscapes, with hectares of food producing land removed from the food chain, thousands of houses built that no one will buy, years of construction traffic in and around the Broads and a road to nowhere that will increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere!