Business boost in £100m base revamp

TRADERS in the Woodbridge area are today looking forward to a huge business boost after Ministry of Defence chiefs confirmed a £100 million project to revamp a former air base.

TRADERS in the Woodbridge area are today looking forward to a huge business boost after Ministry of Defence chiefs confirmed a £100 million project to revamp a former air base.

Official notice of the scheme for Woodbridge airfield has been lodged with planners at Suffolk Coastal, though the council will not decide the plans.

Council chiefs though have been promised that their views will be taken fully into account.

The scheme will involve building a new barracks for the Engineers Regiment of the 16 Air Assault Brigade based at Colchester Garrison and which was created as part of the Strategic Defence Review.

It will house 36 officers, 93 senior non-commissioned officers and 507 other ranks.

Married members of the regiment will be housed within existing MoD housing at the 399 hectare airfield at Sutton, but single living accommodation will have to be built for 371 servicemen and women.

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The development will also include offices, garages, workshops, stores and recreational facilities. The airfield will continue to be used for training purposes.

Ivan Jowers, chairman of the council's development control committee, said: "This is a major investment by the MoD in this district, with a suggested total price tag of £100m, and it will have significant implications for local people.

"However, as this is Crown owned land and the planned development is by the Crown, this council has not formal control over the plans.

"However, we are a key consultee in the process and we will treat it as if it was a normal planning application.

"We will seek the views of everyone who could be affected by these proposals, which will then be assessed and help formulate the council's response.

"Suffolk Coastal, from its leader Ray Herring downwards, has worked closely with the Army to develop plans for Woodbridge Airfield that would benefit the area and meet their needs.

"I would thank the MOD for its willingness to take on board our views, particularly regarding safeguarding the local environment.

"After our extensive talks with the MOD there now appears to be extensive measures being proposed to protect and enhance the local environment, which I am sure most people will warmly welcome.

"The development would also see a welcome influx of children that will benefit local schools, while the economy around Woodbridge is bound to benefit during both the building stage and afterwards."

The MoD intends to keep disruption of the landscape to a minimum by using previously developed land and a conservation group is to be set up under the guidance of English Nature to monitor the management of the landscape.

The council is now to carry out consultation and expects a report to be presented to councillors in February or March.

It is ten years since the American Air Force left the base. Since then it has been used for helicopter training by the Army Air Corps based at Wattisham, and for military exercises.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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