New life for Suffolk RAF base

AFTER years of uncertainty, the Army today announced that it is to bring the former Woodbridge air base back into full use – with a population of more than 1,000 people.

AFTER years of uncertainty, the Army today announced that it is to bring the former Woodbridge air base back into full use – with a population of more than 1,000 people.

At present the 399 hectare site, used for helicopter training, has just two military personnel on duty.

The Ministry of Defence is said to have £100 million to spend on the project, which will also provide a long-term boost to the economy of the area, particularly shops and services.

The project is not new and was first announced two years ago and should have been up and running with a regiment of engineers and their families on base earlier this year.


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But Britain's involvement in the conflict in Iraq and budget uncertainties delayed the project.

Now the MoD hopes work will start on site in January with the aim of moving in 23 Engineer Regiment in 2006.

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Development of the base will include sports facilities which will be open for the public and there will be extra children for Sandlings primary school, which will secure its future.

David Fox, head teacher, said: ''This is amazing news and we will look forward to hearing more from the MoD in conjunction with the local education authority so that appropriate plans can be made for this exciting time at the base."

The school has capacity for 270 pupils but the roll has fallen to 120 following the move of personnel to new homes at Hadleigh and Ipswich.

More than 1,000 people will live at the former American air base including 600 soldiers and they will bring in 250 vehicles. A 64-hectare site close to the airfield will be developed as a self-contained campus where the soldiers will live and work.

There will be a multi-million pound economic boost for the Woodbridge area with many jobs for civilians and increased spending in shops.

Lieut Col Chris Tickell, regiment commander, said: ''The move into Woodbridge is seen as a hugely, hugely positive and good move. I am convinced that this will be good for the regiment."

It is 10 years since the American Air Force left the base and since then it has been used for helicopter training by the Army Air Corps based at Wattisham and military exercises.

Many buildings will be demolished and new ones erected. But the Army stressed that it wanted to build a sympathetically designed campus and to the natural landscape.

The Royal Engineers will provide engineer support for 16 Air Assault Brigade following the Strategic Defence Review. The Brigade headquarters are in Colchester.

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

Opinion – p.6

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