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Bentwaters: Flying at old military air base has split communities across east Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 09:59 20 June 2014

Carolyn Grace talking to pupils from Rendlesham Primary School during a trip to the airfield at Bentwaters to see the Grace Spitfire.

Carolyn Grace talking to pupils from Rendlesham Primary School during a trip to the airfield at Bentwaters to see the Grace Spitfire.

Archant

Arguments over whether flying should be permitted at a former Suffolk air base have intensified with community leaders closest to the site backing aviation use.

Rendlesham Parish Council has confirmed its support for a new blueprint for the Bentwaters site – saying it will bring new jobs to the area, and extra public amenities.

But the application, which seeks consent for the use of nearly 200 buildings as well as 960 air movements a year, has split communities across east Suffolk.

So far Suffolk Coastal council has received 400 letters about the plan – 66% of them against flying from the former USAF Cold War base.

Rendlesham Parish Council chairman Kay Nash said the blueprint was seeking to regularise the activities at the former base, which already include use by heritage aircraft, including the Grace Spitfire, and occasional business flights.

She said: “The application supports local employment and will make provision for a new bridleway which will provide pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders with better access to the forest.

“We also fully support the level of flying being proposed.

“As with any activity there will always be the one or two people that have differing views but the Spitfire and the other heritage planes that are housed at Bentwaters are considered an important part of our heritage, even more so now as we recall the recent D Day commemorations to remind us what a critical part the Grace Spitfire played during the D Day landings.

“We strongly believe that every effort should be made to support the dedicated people that maintain these planes as part of our history.”

Bromeswell Parish Council has called for a “clear and robust flight recording and monitoring system” to be established with quarterly figures published, and a clear statement from Suffolk Coastal council that it would not tolerate any further increase in flying.

Opponents believe extra flying will destroy the tranquillity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, harm wildlife, and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

They believe permitting an agreed level of flying sets a precedent and is the thin end of the wedge, opening the door for the creation of a civil airport.

Eyke Parish Council is calling for the blueprint to be rejected and wants flying treated as a separate application.

The council said: “What is being proposed will have a major impact which will irrevocably change the tranquillity of the area forever. The permission to fly in principle will make it easier to increase greatly flying levels in future, with, or without, necessary planning applications.”

Alderton Parish Council and Chillesford Parish Meeting have also both objected.

Campaigners also feel the Spitfire could accomplish its flying within the deferred development rights which allowed flying from Bentwaters 28 days a year.

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