Hundreds of jobs to be created

HUNDREDS of jobs will be created when the Army spends millions of pounds on a major overhaul Woodbridge Airfield it emerged today.The move which safeguards its future will involve bringing in two regiments.

HUNDREDS of jobs will be created when the Army spends millions of pounds on a major overhaul Woodbridge Airfield it emerged today.

The move which safeguards its future will involve bringing in two regiments.

The decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to keep open Woodbridge Airfield will have repercussions for the whole of the Suffolk Coastal area.

More than 700 soldiers are to be stationed at Woodbridge and this will have a major impact on the district, with a likely boost in trade for shops, pubs, hotels, leisure and tourist attractions.

There is also confirmation that the MoD is very keen to ensure that Sandlings primary school and the childcare centre, on the air base, remain open and this will secure their future.

The MoD is preparing to make a formal announcement about the long-term future of Woodbridge Airfield which has been mothballed in the last few months with the closure of many facilities and the withdrawal of hundreds of Army personnel.

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However, the scale of redevelopment is more wide-ranging than was originally believed and a new name is being thought up for the former American air base.

It is expected that the airfield will be known as Hawker Barracks and preliminary work will start within 12 months on upgrading the decaying buildings. There will be new barracks and buildings and the reopening of community facilities, recently closed when Army families moved to new housing at Hadleigh.

The first regiment to move in will be the 23rd Engineers Regiment, due at Woodbridge in 2005-6, and this will be followed by another regiment. Details of the second regiment have not been made public. A number of the Army's new hi-tech Apache helicopters are expected to be stationed at the base for training purposes.

David Fox, head teacher of Sandlings primary school, said yesterday: "We are very pleased to receive the news that the MoD will be moving a new regiment into the Woodbridge base. This will now allay any concerns about the school closure and will secure a long term educational future for its pupils and families. It will also serve as a springboard to the community and will help to open up the range of facilities already established on the base.

"The present lowering of numbers at the school and the Sutton Heath childcare centre, also on the base, has resulted in both establishments having considerable spaces available. We look forward to welcoming new pupils and families as soon as possible."

Woodbridge Town Council is keen to arrange a meeting as soon as possible with the Army to obtain all the details. Mac Miles, the town mayor, said yesterday the decision ended many months of uncertainty and would have wide-ranging benefits for the area.

An Army spokeswoman said: "I can not confirm any details as no formal announcement has been made."

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