Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge

Letters to the EADT about developments at the former RAF Bentwaters


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Edited letters to the editor of the East Anglian Daily Times

FOR (14)     AGAINST (21)


Support Not From Locals
Most of your readers who support this development will not live under the flight path of the aircraft, live within a few yards of the noise and danger from heavy traffic, or breath the fumes from the passing cars.  If Stonham had a redundant air base up for sale, would T Cross be so keen to share with Suffolk's people the opportunity for jobs, economic growth and more accessible flights?  I think not!
Sharon Miller, Melton


Jobs Not Definite
The case for re-using Bentwaters for a civilian airport is flawed, so it should be the subject of a public inquiry.  I do not believe it will benefit "thousands of people" and the likely loss of jobs in and associated with tourism is likely to outweigh any gains.
P Cooke, Chairman Iken Parish Council, Iken


Obvious Place for an Airport
Let nobody be fooled by the number of letters you have published that are against the proposed AIA development at Bentwaters.  Such a bold and imaginative scheme was bound to raise the hackles of Luddites, NIMBYs and the more hardline sections of the environmental lobby.  Basically the proposal is to replace an air base with ... er ... an airport!  Most objections are unconvincing.  Civil aircraft are no noisier or dirtier than military ones; the air base is and has been since 1944, only peripheral to the AONB.  Flying is the growth mode of transport of the next Millennium, due to public demand.  Why should not Suffolk and its people share in this opportunity for jobs, economic growth and more accessible flights?   Otherwise all these things will surely go to Stansted, Cambridge and Norwich instead.
T Cross, Stonham


Insufferable Noise
Military jets are loud but are gone quickly.  Commercial airlines are noisy for longer.   Older jets used for freight are usually much noisier and slower, and often fly at night.  There is a risk that SCDC will approve the plan and condemn many thousands of residents to insufferable noise, traffic and air pollution.
Chris Allen, Martlesham  - 6 July


Noise, Roads, Tourism Loss
I live in the village of Eyke and I make my living as a pilot.  It would seem unsound to build an airport in a rural area and expect a city to grow up around it.  Airports provide jobs but many will be recruited from non-local airports.   with Stansted and Norwich both still under capacity, why open more?  Training aircraft practise take of and landing, so the airport area would have fairly constant noise.  A new trunk road and rail link will be inevitable. The disadvantages are constant noise, crowded roads, and loss of tourism.
D Regan, Eyke  - 6 July


Vital Jobs
I worked at Bentwaters in the 50s and 60s.  It was clean, tidy and did have outstanding natural beauty only a short walk from the base.  If this going to give employment to local people then go for it.
Val Smy, Woodbridge  - 6 July


Hatred of Aviation
It is perfectly correct that people who genuinely oppose an airport should have the right to do so.  But the consistent use of inaccuracies only reveals a hatred of all things aviation.
Andrew Taylor, Colchester  - 6 July


Don't Waste Resource
We would like to support the use of Bentwaters as a commercial airport, and encourage all like-minded people to voice their support as well. It would be unwise not to utilise such a resource, which will benefit thousands of people and businesses in Suffolk.  Felixstowe port is sensitively managed to the benefit of the community.  It is increasingly important that other non-agricultural businesses provide a diversity of employment.   Opening the airport would attract considerable additional investment and employment.
William Catchpole, KDM International plc, Kesgrave  - 30 June


Use Stansted & Norwich
The planning application is open for public inspection at the SCDC council offices in Woodbridge.  80,000 aircraft movements, 250,000 passengers.  Be alert to the devastating effect it will have on the tranquility of this beautiful part of England.  The SCDC plan First Alteration makes provision for a civil airport at Bentwaters, but it is to be the subject of a public inquiry to be held on November 10.   The applicants have pre-empted this by submitting a detailed planning application.  The public wishing to object should have deposited it with the SCDC Planning & Leisure Department, Melton Hill, Woodbridge, IP12 1AU, by 17 July 1998.  There will be no point complaining afterwards.   I consider that the envisaged activities could be catered for at Stansted and Norwich, and Bentwaters developed for non-aviation use.
C P Tomlinson, Woodbridge  - 26 June


Insufficient Links
Noise and pollution from an aircraft movement every five minutes.  The peace of Rendlesham and Tunstall Forest, Iken Cliff, Sutton Heath, Woodbridge and Kyson Point, will be shattered.  Successful airports need a good rail and road link.  Bentwaters is served by narrow minor routes.  Please keep our region as it is - one of the few places in the south of England where visitors can come for peace and relaxation.
David L Smith, Snape - 26 June


Good Opportunity
Where there is so much opposition to dig up our countryside, failure to maximise use of Bentwaters would mean missing a great opportunity to use available resources in Suffolk.  Those with a nimby attitude should realise that it's already in their back yard, and has been for a long time.  Flight figures that match Heathrow are unlikely.   I don't think we should let Bentwaters rot away, for the sake of keeping this end of Suffolk as dead as it became when the Americans left.
John Benton, Shotley - 26 June


No Comparison
The correspondent who says that the sound of light aircraft is no more discomfort than that of a lawnmower on Sunday, is himself not living in the real world.  Manifestly he has not digested AIA's proposals.  A Boeing 737 makes more noise than a mower.  Even if it didn't, would Mr Taylor be pleased if his neighbours were to cut their grass 40,000 times a year?  It is noticeable that Mr Taylor lives safely in Colchester.
Donald Arthur, Melton - 26 June


Curtail Air Travel
The government urges the population to give up using cars and adopt environmentally beneficial methods of transport, while supporting the growth of air travel!  A large jet burns a ton of fuel to get off the ground.  Recently, an aircraft jettisoned 14,000 gallons of fuel.  Air transport is responsible for 35% of all pollution due to fuel consumption.  It is time to consider the contraction rather than the expansion of air travel.
J J Randall, Leavenheath - 26 June


Air Intrusion
Kettleburgh area is subject to intrusive helicopter training flights.  When I asked why, I was told that because East Anglia has so many sensitive nature sites it was increasingly difficult to find training air space without undue disturbance to wildlife.   How can it be deemed feasible for civil aviation when it is not for the armed forces?  Mr Taylor may find the sound of light aircraft pleasant, the people of Crowfield will probably say otherwise.
Heather M Tanner (Mrs) Kettleburgh - 26 June


Over The Top
Recent letters reveal a degree of misunderstanding of the proposed Airpark.
1. The condemned closure of Ipswich Airport shows a case for commercial aviation in Suffolk.
2. It would be absurd to destroy Bentwaters and build a replacement elsewhere.
3. Without an airport, house building would lead to the sprawling urbanisation of the Woodbridge area.
4. My enjoyment of the area was not affected by the USAF at Bentwaters, nor does Norwich airport destroy the charm of north Norfolk.
5. A public inquiry would drag on for at least another year.
6. Suffolk has potential for healthy development.
Let us be reasonable, and consider this in a serious and informed manner.
P F B Clarke, Little Glemham - 26 June


Too Little Too Late
A number of issues remain unaddressed:
Tourism: - The local tourism industry provides many jobs.  No tourism, no jobs
Air Traffic Pollution: noise and fuel-dumping.
Short termism: too many decision have been taken for short term advantage without due consideration to the long term effect (e.g. out of town supermarkets.)
David Harris, Kettleburgh - 24 June


Antis not in Real World
People who oppose this scheme are not living in the real world. Have they considered the alternatives to returning the base to the use for which it was built?  The concerns about wildlife do not hold water. Most airports have an abundance of flora and fauna within and around their perimeters.  I was born and raised on a farm in Suffolk and never once was the enjoyment of my surroundings spoiled by the sound or sight of aircraft overhead.  Rather, enhanced.   The sound induces no more discomfort than garden lawnmowers on a Sunday.
Andrew M Taylor, Colchester


Area's beauty Status at Risk
I object most strongly to Yann Borgstedt of AIA saying the EADT has not given a fair assessment of the Bentwaters controversy.  EADT has presented facts as supplied by AIA.  The SCDC Local Plan allows flying only between 07:00 and 20:00 Monday-Friday, 07:00-13:00 Saturday and none on Sunday.  SCDC must be made aware of the strong feeling among local residents from Ipswich to Aldeburgh who pin their hopes on this airport plan being totally rejected.
P Garnham, Aldeburgh - 24 June


Preserving Vibrant Communities
Fears of future demands for dual carriageway links to the A12 and associated ribbon development are understandable only if they are based on wildly exaggerated and misleading reports that we have seen recently.
250,000 passenger movements after 10 years is less than 5% of Birmingham's 5,323,000 in 1996.
7,000 transport movements is only 10% or so of the total for Birmingham.
The plans are conservative and manageable and will not inflict destruction to the environment.
An information room is open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4-7pm, in the inquiries office beside the A1152 at the base
John Cousens, AIA, Rendlesham, Woodbridge  - 24  June


Flying is for the Birds
I don't think there should be an airport built at Bentwaters because it will scare all the birds and animals away.  there are enough airports in Britain anyway.  It's meant to be a place to have a quiet time. I go biking and bird watching there with my family, but I don't think we'll go to an airport for our summer weekends.  It's one of the best places on earth to me and I think children should write and say what they feel about it.
Tom Hobson, Aged 10, Rendham  - 20  June


Loss of Unique Area
This is not the area for a huge development as is planned at Bentwaters.  Surely other redundant airfields in the country have better road and rail links and would be much more suitable.  If this development goes ahead with new road building, noise and pollution then this unique area of rural East Suffolk will be lost for ever.
V Richards, Sutton, Woodbridge  - 20  June


Airport will Stay Small
It is our duty as the airport operating company to inform people about the developments that are taking place at AIA.  Thus I would like to clarify a number of erroneous points mentioned in your articles.  "The new airport will be bigger than Birmingham Airport" - Birmingham carried 5.3 million passengers in 1995. We expect 250,000 after 10 years.  "There will be far more planes during holiday charter season." - The charter operation will add an extra five flights per week.  AIA will be and remain a small regional airport that will serve its local market.  The environmental impacts have been carefully studied and proper mitigation measures will be installed so that our beautiful area remains that way.  The project will attract investment companies and above all create good and stable jobs for local people.
Yann Borgstedt, Airport Project Manager  - 20  June


Priceless Peace could Go Forever
If this was a deprived area with high unemployment we would welcome AIA with open arms.  But we are not.   An airpark would provide unskilled work in the short term, less in the long term. Specialist and skilled jobs would be nationally or internationally advertised.  The quarter of a million passengers will be passing through - not spending money in our area.  Noise levels will destroy the tranquillity of this beautiful area and damage our important tourist industry.  The plans airpark proposals must, I believe, be the subject of a public inquiry.
Caroline Harvey, Old Barrack Road, Woodbridge  - 20  June


Airport is Against Strategic Plan
I really do wonder at the point of strategic planning in Suffolk - Ipswich airport with its position near roads and other links, plus thousands of potential workers close by, is closed.  This is followed by a plan to build a new airport in an AONB.  Bentwaters was built where it is for military reasons.  I can think of many more places that would have a justifiable claim for investment in employment and job creation.  By all means come up with schemes to make best use of the redundant base, but keep it manageable and avoid disruption and destruction to the environment.  After planning for an airport, there will be an inevitable demand for a dual carriageway to link the airport to the A12, across the upper Deben valley.  What price a county structure plan, then?
N Santy, The Common, Metfield, Harleston  - 19  June


Will Villagers Benefit?
What about the views of the nearest neighbours?  Much of the former airfield lies in the parish of Wantisden and the nearest village is Butley.   The population of both parishes is small but the views of these parishioners if of paramount importance.  Most villagers have lived in the area for years, and in the past have put up with military vehicles rumbling through the village in the middle of the night.  What price the peace dividend if withdrawal of the troops is replaced by planes every few minutes?
Viv Mason, SCDC Councillor for Butley, Wantisden & Hollesley  - 18 June


Flight Figures Frightening
There are many unanswered questions.  The forecast of an 18 hour/day operation would lead to aircraft landing or taking off every five minutes, if flying was constant from 06:00 to 24:00.  If there would be LESS night flying, it is likely to be nearer every three minutes.  Deciding to build Sizewell in an AONB was bizarre, but after Sizewell was built, it hasn't impacted on our daily lives as an airport would.  Yet before building Sizewell, there was a full and searching public inquiry.  Surely the Bentwaters proposal should be similarly tested?
John Waddell, Snape  - 18 June


Airport will Ruin Suffolk's Character
The proposed airport at Bentwaters may eventually fail commercially but no longer should we assume failure and do nothing.  If it does go ahead this airport will destroy the character of Suffolk for ever an damage the quality of life for the vast majority of local people.  There are far better alternatives for job creation.  People who understand Suffolk should fight this proposal.  Bentwaters must be stopped now.  The negative impact is obvious. Noise, more traffic, followed by more road-building, and more noise.  Air quality will decline.  Do the benefits justify this wholesale destruction of what is so wonderful about Suffolk?  Clearly not.  The stated business benefits are weak and could never justify the harm to local people.  Tourists from outside our region would arrive in noisy coaches and cars, park at the airport, buy some duty free booze and fly off in a noise plane - hardly a penny will be spent in local Suffolk shops, restaurants and pubs.  The owners of Bentwaters are not investing to create jobs, they are doing it to make money.   Suffolk is not a depressed area and has no reason to give in to emotional blackmail and accept jobs at any price.
John Cole, Sutton Hoo  - 18 June


Airport Blight
The developers have at last launched their proposals for its future, attempting to present their plans as benign.   But by the 10th year 80,000 air movements and 250,000 passengers per year are forecast.  There are many disadvantages resulting from proposals of this scale.  These proposals are largely in addition to the 30,000 square metres of buildings which already have planning permission. Bentwaters lies in an area of tranquillity and natural beauty and is designated as an AONB.  These are some of East Suffolk's chief assets, unquantified in cash terms yet extremely valuable to all who live hereabouts and the many visitors to the area.

Only over-riding national interests should warrant intrusions on the scale proposed for Bentwaters, into such a special location - its remoteness contributing to its effectiveness.  It was an over-riding national interest which justified the construction of Bentwaters but no such over-riding national interest can be claimed for the present proposals - its remoteness is a considerable disadvantage to a commercial operation.  There are only two future scenarios for a civil airport proposed for Bentwaters.  First, that it will fail because of it its isolation and the Bentwaters 'problem' will remain.   Second, that it will expand to become even larger than now envisaged.  This detrimental increase would be uncontrollable by the planning system.

It is clear that the developers have no concern for the permanent adverse effects of their proposals on the area, its skies and its people.  If SCDC councillors consider that the proposal is beyond their remit (which could be understandable because of the county, regional, air transport and national aspects), an option would be to ask for the application to be 'called in' for decision by the Department of the Environment.  At the very least, a public inquiry should be held.
M C Evelegh, Woodbridge Town and County Councillor, Seckford Street, Woodbridge - 15 June


Bentwaters: Alarm!
Clarity is required in the Bentwaters debate.  The simple issue is whether the promised gains to the local economy outweigh the environmental costs.  In short, whether quality of life is such a simple function of local economic activity.  A public inquiry examined the County Structure Plan and concluded that "...the scale of development should not create a need for a new link road to the A12.  This would compromise policies of countryside restraint to an unacceptable degree."  The report accepted in principle a "low-key" aviation facility.  BIL's plan does not include flight paths but it is apparently that the proposed airport is decidedly not low-key.

Unquestionably an enterprise of the proposed size could not function with the existing roads.  That can only mean more growth and more road-building.  The key is the link road:  without it the airport cannot leave the ground; with it, the area cannot be protected from creeping urbanisation, noise and traffic.   BIL relies in part on the apathy of east Suffolk residents. Only a letter or phone call to your local councillor or the Chairman of the Environment Committee can prove them wrong.
Peter Padfield, Woodbridge - 13 June


Airpark Obviously Advantageous
Mr Borgstedt has never "made it quite clear ... that AIA will become a major international and freight airport."   Airports are demand-led and the demand for AIA has been researched carefully to produce the traffic demand projections on which its plans are based, which are set out clearly in the planning application.  They show that we see the airport developing over 10 years or so, into a sub-regional airport with traffic to match - about 250,000 passenger movements a year.  These passengers will be carried on 7,000 air transport movements, which means 3,500 visits by passenger aircraft - 3,250 small turbo-props and 250 medium-sized jets.
We expect a small number of cargo flights to develop over time, with about 380 movements per year by cargo aircraft of all sizes - after 10 years.  We also see the development of a maintenance industry, serving initially fairly small aircraft, and larger aircraft as time goes on and the companies develop and grow.  They will use facilities the site has already, and can generate solid, high-value, skilled and long-term employment for at least 500 people.  AIA is ideal in terms of facilities and location for this kind of development.
Jon Cousens, Anglia International Airpark - 9 June


Airpark is a Must
A friend in Ipswich sends me cuttings from the EADT about Bentwaters, which interests me because I have a home in Bromeswell.   My son flies air taxis and to take someone to Ipswich he had to land at Cambridge, as the nearest airport!  Anglia International Airpark ... yes please.
R Kerry Williams, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria - 8 June


Short Memories
It is regrettable that various correspondents persist in using emotive language and misinformation.  For example, Bentwaters does not possess the longest runway in Europe - it is a standard NATO airfield.  Would objectors please recall the level of operations which were sustained when the 81st TFW was at its peak.  In 1985 it was in excess of 29,000 soldiers, even if we halve this because of four forward bases.  As I cannot see Bentwaters ever seeing that level of activity again, what on earth is all the fuss about?  If all the proposed development was on a new greenfield site, the fuss would be understandable.  Sadly, memories are short, as to what we all lived with in reasonably good order until 1993.
Geoffrey Pleasance, Ipswich - 8 June


Development will Regenerate Economy
Your [EADT] article did strike the right balance.  This area needs a development of this nature to regenerate the economy and let us hope that there is not too much delay by the local authority planners in clearing this project.  I appreciate that the resumption of flying operations will cause a certain amount of noise, but not everybody in the area is retired and the area needs employment.  This will put money into local pockets which hopefully will be spent in the local shops.
C W Cocker, Woodbridge - 5 June


Bentwaters still good
There is nothing radically wrong with the former Bentwaters airbase.  In the 40 years after the war, NATO/MoD spent millions replacing and refurbishing the buildings - with the exception of the officers mess and Hangar No.2.  All dangerous asbestos was removed in the 80s and the A1152 was upgraded in the 90s.  Bentwaters provided employment for many of us from 1943, so let's go for it.  Creating jobs would put all those new buildings to good use.
Norman Rose, Martlesham - 2 June


Aeronautical Backwater
Whatever has happened to the much publicised Anglia International Airpark due to be opened this year at Bentwaters?   Last November the owners informed us that flying would begin in May or June.   SCDC tell me that no planning application has been received, which means that an awful lot has to be done in the next few weeks to get scheduled services operating.  So many environmental groups are against the scheme, because of the inevitable disturbance to the Suffolk countryside, that it may never get approval.
Just imagine the beauty spot of Iken cliff ruined by aircraft noise again after a few pleasant years without the scream of American jets.  Suffolk is as dead as a dodo as far as aviation is concerned and we have said goodbye to that wonderful grass airport at Ipswich.   Suffolk, with its head-in-the-sand outlook on aviation, will be regarded in many circles as an aeronautical backwater.
D Johnson, Bond's Meadow, Lowestoft - 13 April


Collecting and sharing contributions about the Twin Bases of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England since 1995. Copyright © 1995-2009 Linn Barringer, All Rights Reserved.