Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge

1998 News of the Twin Bases


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Edited reports from the East Anglian Daily Times

Countryside Commission Attacks SCDC
30 December - David Green, EADT

The government's countryside watchdog, the Countryside Commission, claims that SCDC is not fulfilling its duty to conserve and enhance a nationally-designated landscape, because SCDC supports "low-key" civil aviation use of the Bentwaters air base. The Commission fears that the door is being opened to development which is incompatible with protection of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.

The Countryside Commission will present a document to the forthcoming inquiry which suggests that an exception to Government policies protecting AONBs could only be considered if a national need was established. Yet AIA's plans are only for an essentially local need. Furthermore, sale of the land by the MoD to the private sector removed it from the national interest.

Stuart Grimwade, for SCDC, said the Bentwaters application was not a new development within the AONB in the sense that flying had taken place from the site for several decades. "Our objective is to strike a balance between competing ideals - to secure a community and employment on the basis of low-key flying," he said, adding that the council was trying to create a unique policy for a unique situation.

Fund to Fight Airpark
28 December - Richard Smith, EADT

A campaign has been launched to raise funds to hire a London lawyer to stop the air base at RAF Bentwaters being developed into a large new airport. The River Deben Association (RDA) has been asked to assist other organisations with the estimated £6000 required for legal representation and an economic study.

RDA chairman Denzil Cowdry says a lawyer specialising in planning affairs has been briefed to argue for a change in the Structure Plan provisions at the Local Plan inquiry in January 1999. He said that " airport affects river users because, depending upon wind direction, the inbound or outbound flight path for the south-east will follow the line of the tidal estuary and a similar flight path for the north-east tracks the upper reaches of the river.

A former pilot, who remained anonymous, said that aircraft using Visual Flight Rules would fly up the River Deben, regardless of approved flight paths, because it was readily identifiable from the air.

SCDC will hold a special meeting at 2pm on 13 January 1999, in the Woodbridge Community Hall, to allow people to attend and hear a decision from the development control sub-committee.

Insurance Staff say "No!"
22 December - Richard Smith, EADT

Insurance giant Royal Sun Alliance has abandoned its plan to move to the old Mission Support Building at Rendlesham. Employees refused the opportunity to relocate from Ipswich into the prestigious office building in the East Anglian countryside. The company has two branch offices in Museum Street with 240 staff, who were not happy about commuting 15 miles each way from their homes in the Ipswich area. The company's plan to provide 110 new local jobs will not happen.

The company had applied for planning permission four months ago and the prospective move was hailed as a major vote of confidence for Rendlesham, which has suffered five years of uncertainty since the Americans moved out.

Yann Borgstedt, spokesman for AIA, admitted that the collapsed deal was "very disappointing." However, he said that the insurance company's original plan reaffirmed the project team's argument that the new airport is the essential catalyst for the regeneration of Rendlesham.

Rendlesham Parish Council chairman Michael Bunbury said "It is very necessary for Rendlesham to have an economic heart beating again. I am extremely disappointed as we had hoped this would be the start of something, but I do not share the view that the airport is necessary in order to get the economic base going.

Airport "Could End Festival"
9 December - Richard Rackham, Dave Lennard, Adam Flinter, Front Page Headlines, EADT

Lord Marlesford fears that developing RAF Bentwaters into a civilian airport would threaten the annual Aldeburgh Festival held at Snape Maltings concert hall. He is urging the Government to review the plans. Marlesford is chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and lives near Framlingham. He made his comments during the House of Lords question time yesterday. "I am not saying the housing is not okay, but I cannot think of a more unsuitable place to have an airport. It is a great mistake. There are other airports like Stansted and Cambridge within reach.

Aldeburgh Production chief executive Jonathan Reekie said "We cannot see how irreparable damage to the Aldeburgh Festival... could be avoided with the creation of an airport at Bentwaters.

Airport Plans Scaled Down
4 December - Richard Smith, Front Page Headlines, EADT

AIA have bowed to public pressure and are scaling down their plans for the proposed airport. Yann Borgstedt apologised for failing to communicate with the public and has now sent out 18,000 publications to residents throughout East Suffolk, outlining their "new vision" for Bentwaters. Mr Borgstedt appealed to the anti-airport campaigners to keep the project in perspective. "We are, after all, planning a local airport, not a national hub."

While Mr Borgstedt remains vague about the number of general aviation flights that will be reduced, he is adamant that there has to be an airport to kick start the regeneration programme. He also said that the small airport will not be allowed to grow into another Stansted.

SCDC Council officers are still examining whether the scale of flying that have proposed accords with the Structure Plan and the emerging Local Plan.

MP John Gummer said "I want employment for my constituents but I do not want someone coming with promises which they can not deliver."

Aldeburgh Council Support Airport
2 December, EADT

Aldeburgh Councillors voted an overwhelming 11-2 to back the planned development of an airport at the former RAF Bentwaters, despite the fact that Aldeburgh is expected to be directly beneath two of the frequently used flightpaths.

Most councillors felt that aircraft would be too high to cause a nuisance when using the flightpaths close to Aldeburgh. Snape Maltings, one of the world's most highly regarded classical music venues, is about one mile from the proposed flightpaths.

Give Peace a Chance
2 December, EADT

The anti-airport campaigners put their case in today's EADT regular feature, the "COMMENT" page.

Mike Sherwen, co-ordinator of Bentwaters Campaign Group said "We are not against development at Bentwaters. We welcome the fact that the Enterprise Park is starting to take off, thanks to AIA's management of the site. But what guarantee do we have that AIA will not just sell up once their investment has appreciated because of planning approval?"

London Docklands airport began with quiet, modern aircraft but have now accepted jets and doubled their imposed limits for numbers of flights in 13 years. This could be exactly the situation at Bentwaters if the demand is there. But Suckling Airways found that there was only demand for 4 flights a day, when they flew from Ipswich.

We think that "some business and private flying" is not a fair description of the 70,000 general aviation air traffic movements stated in the proposals. AIA suggests that an airport is the best way to tidy up this major derelict built-up military site. However we believe it is not prohibitively expensive to remove the runway and bunkers, once and for all. That would be a real peace dividend.

Call on Residents to Back the Airport
2 December, EADT

The developers put their case in today's EADT regular feature, the "COMMENT" page.

Yann Borgstedt and Jon Cousens, from the group behind plans to develop the redundant RAF Bentwaters air base, are today urging the local community to get behind the project promising thousands of homes and jobs. Yann Borgstedt, AIA's project manager, claims the proposals to turn the base into an airport, business park and housing estate will create 1,200 new and refurbished homes and 2,000 jobs.

AIA plan to remove more than 200,000 sq. ft. of old military buildings, landscape the entire, restore heath and woodland habitats. Mr Borgstedt said that local environmentalists and NIMBYs want to sacrifice all that.Mr Borgstedt accuses the project's detractors of placing these in jeopardy, and claims their fears are exaggerated. Without this airport project, the site will remain a public eyesore and continue to deteriorate.

Mr Borgstedt said that in 10 years the airport is only projecting nine daily scheduled flights and less than one charter flight, plus some business and private flying. AIA's environmental statement shows that aviation noise will be less than 50dB - the level at which locals would start to be annoyed.

But anti-airport campaigners have hit back, arguing the project will have little economic impact and will cause disturbance and disruption on a massive scale. Mike Sherwen of the newly-formed Bentwaters Campaign Group asked "Do we want to be continually on the threshold of annoyance?"

Town Council Calls for Inquiry
12 November - Richard Smith, EADT

Woodbridge Town Council narrowly voted in favour of recommending to SCDC that the AIA scheme should be determined by a public inquiry.   They said the scheme is too big for the district council to handle and they want the final decision to be made by the Government.

However, the Town Council did not vote on whether it was for or against the plan, which infuriated some councillors who warned that it was wrong to take a neutral stance on an important issue.

Councillor Roy Burgon said "...we have to accept that we have an airport at Bentwaters..."
Deputy Mayor Cliff Cocker said "This town council should support a properly controlled airfield."
Councillor Tony Hubbard (and chairman of the Woodbridge Society) said "We have to protect what we have here now... peace and quiet."


Airport Facing More Delays
10 November - Richard Smith, EADT

The decision on the proposed airport at Bentwaters will be delayed for up to a year.  The project team reacted angrily to the news but pledged to press on with their plans.  Yann Borgstedt of SBAL said it was a nightmare and that "the airport is an integral part of the development and a catalyst to start the whole thing.  We are not happy with what is happening," adding that "We are not running away now and we are willing to look at a smaller type of airport.   If we have to change the plan to get the airport, then we will do it."

The airport plan will have to wait until an inspector has produced his report into the first alteration of the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan.   The nine week inquiry starts in Woodbridge today and the Bentwaters issues will not be discussed until January.   SCDC will start discussing the airport in the New Year but they will be recommended not to make a final decision   until the local inquiry report is published.

Assistant director of planning Bob Chamberlain said "The inspector will be looking at our policies which suggest an airport would be acceptable subject to various provisos."  Objectors include the Chris Parker Group, Suffolk Preservation Society and Aldeburgh Productions.


Bentwaters Not for Cargo
November - EADT

AIA's Jon Cousens has denied suggestions that Bentwaters might be used for commercial cargo planes.  If any cargo is carried through AIA, it will be aboard scheduled passenger flights.  "There will just not be the demand for cargo flights except for the extremely occasional ad hoc commercial flight," he said.

The economics of running a dedicated commercial cargo operation just do not make it worthwhile when you can transport goods to Europe so quickly, easily and cheaply by road.  "You can send 40 tonnes of goods on a truck... scheduled flights are well able to cope with any cargo needs that might arise."

SBAL/AIA stress that their flying operation will be low-key and is not out to compete with other airports in the region.  They believe there is a need for it and that it will be possible to attract business for civil and holiday flights.  Its use for local businessmen needing to reach the Continent could be of great benefit.


Two Workers Find Jobs at Airpark
4 November - Michael Hughes, Jobquest, EADT

Two workers have found jobs with the first company to move onto the new Anglia International Airpark.  The two were found jobs at Wooders Ltd, the specialist Landrover sales and service company, by the Woodbridge JobCentre, under the governments New Deal initiative for over-25s.  There are another 600 applicants hoping to fill vacancies with a variety of skills; aircraft specialists, administration, labouring, construction, catering, information technology and many others.

The potential for jobs is enormous, according to the Suffolk Employment Service.  Eventually, as many as 1,500.  Following Wooders Ltd is a freight company from Felixstowe, and other companies dealing in business support, distribution and manufacturing.


Low Flying 'Disaster'
21 October - Richard Smith, EADT

Holiday charter planes will fly as low as 1,200 feet above the centre of Woodbridge as they descend towards the proposed new airport outside the town, it was revealed yesterday.  Aldeburgh, Melton, Eyke, Sutton, Debach, Bredfield and Iken will also bear the brunt of several types of planes ranging from light aircraft to Boeing 737s if SBAL receives permission to set up the Anglia International Airpark.

Woodbridge Town Mayor Fred Reynolds said "This new evidence shows that there will be a straightforward commercial airport which, as far as I can see, will have a pretty devastating impact for Woodbridge.  Planes will fly low and will completely alter the character of Woodbridge.  It will be a disaster for us."

Aldeburgh will be sandwiched between two incoming flight paths which will be used on 70% of the days.  Figures produced by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners planning company in London show that a total of 55 flights a day could use flight paths at 2,100 feet by Slaughden and North Warren on the outskirts of Aldeburgh.

The world famous concert hall at Snape Maltings will be close to the flight path and Bikerdike Allen and Partners noise consultants say they do not expect there to be any unacceptable disturbance or disruption to activities within the building.   However, SBAL says it is prepared to have an agreement with SCDC and Snape Maltings to avoid certain types of operational activity when recording is taking place.

Extra information was provided yesterday on aircraft numbers, flight paths, traffic figures and noise to help planners at SCDC make their decision on the airport plan.  These details will be sent out to nearly 2,000 people and organisations for their comments to be returned by November 20.

It is expected that SCDC will first discuss the plans in public in January, with a final decision by Easter.


Bentwaters House Prices Increase
6 October - Richard Smith, EADT

More than 40% increase as American officers' homes go back on the market.  More than 60 houses and bungalows in Suffolk Drive, Rendlesham, will be sold in phases.  Prices for the two, three and four bedroom properties start at GBP 45,000.  Two years ago, they were priced at GBP 35,000.

The homes have been lying empty for more than five years.  Dozens of people joined waiting lists to buy them after Bentwaters Investments bough the air base in May 1997, and the first house sales were due a month later.

Sales were stopped and deposits returned to irate buyers.  Now the homes are being sold through the Woodbridge branch of Woolwich Property Services.  An "Open Weekend" is being organised for 10/11 October.

Press inquiries are referred to DTZ Debenham Thorpe in London, which is managing the base. DTZ have been unavailable for comment.  It is unclear whether roads have been adopted, whether essential services have been converted from US to English standards, and whether sales will depend on progress on other developments for the air base.


Line Dance Record Failed
18 September - EADT

Bentwaters was used for a world record bid for the most people line dancing at once.  The present world record is 5,500 and the British record is 1,788 line dancers.

The organisers were disappointed when only around 400 line dancers joined the record attempt.


Line Dance Record Bid on the Bentwaters Runway
17 September - EADT

Bentwaters runway will be used for a world record bid - the most people line dancing at once.  The present world record is 5,500 and the British record is 1,788 line dancers.  The organisers are hoping that at least one of those records will be smashed on Sunday.

The event is being organised by Ipswich-based Main Event Promotions.  Participants will need to arrive 12.30pm to register for the event at 1.15pm.  The event will take only 5 minutes and will be kept to very simple moves to cater for novices.  There will be hundreds of other attractions over the weekend, when the base will be open from 9.30am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.


100 Jobs for Bentwaters
17 September - Richard Smith, EADT

A top British company is preparing to move into the the most prestigious building at Rendlesham.  The company (being kept a secret by Strutt & Parker - the estate agents who have brokered the deal) will move from its existing premises in Ipswich and take over the empty Mission Support building.

The company is an "FT100" company and intends to create about 110 local jobs.   The client intends to use the building as offices, for which it is understood planning permission has been granted.  Employees will cover working hours 08:00 to 21:00 in weekdays and 09:00 to 17:00 at weekends.

Guesswork seems to imply that the company is in insurance or banking and are perhaps planning a telephone call centre, with business conducted on the phone.  Call centres are often located outside towns to take advantage of lower rent and taxes.

Airpark Hits Another Snag
9 September - Richard Smith, EADT

The Airpark plan has been deal another blow by objections registered in Norwich.  Councillors on Norwich City Council's economy committee oppose the scheme to turn the former American air base into a new airport.  They fear it will create a direct threat to the survival of Norwich Airport as a regional facility and as an employment generator.

Mike Loveday, acting head of Norwich's planning department said "The project would adversely affect the development of Norwich airport..."  even though Norwich Airport says it is on course for significant growth over the next five years.

Hugh Lawson, MD of Norwich Airport believes that there is insufficient demand to make the Bentwaters project viable unless significant civil and general aviation trade is taken from Norwich and other airports.


Airpark's Future in the Hands of SCDC
25 August - Richard Smith, EADT

The Government has decided that district councillors in Suffolk are the best people to make a decision on the controversial plan to start a civil airport at the former RAF Bentwaters.  This means that the Government has decided not to "call in" the application for a public inquiry before SCDC makes a decision.

AIA's plans are in the hands of SCDC while the application goes before various committees, prior to an expected Christmas decision date.  But further consultation on subjects such as flight paths is required.  However, SCDC intends to refer the application to the Government Office for the Eastern Region, if councillors decide to pass the plan.

Lyn Caudrey, of the  Government Office's planning and transport division said that planning authorities can refuse planning permission without reference to the Secretary of State, although applications do then have a right to appeal to him.

Woodbridge Town Council is to discuss the guidance given by the Government Office for the Eastern Region at its planning committee meeting tonight.


Airport No Threat to Woodbridge Peace
31 July - Jon Cousens, SBAL, AIA, writing in the EADT

The opinions expressed by respondents to Mr Barratt's survey on Bentwaters presumably formed on the basis of his summary of the proposals in the "In Touch" Woodbridge Newsletter that he produces.  This summary contained several exaggerations.   This may have influenced the response, quite apart from the skew that always results from the British tradition of noisy protest and silent support.

Even if there are 80,000 movements a year at the airport in 10 years' time, we would expect fewer than 500 of these actually to fly over Woodbridge in a year.  Of these 500, fewer than 100 would be medium or large jet aircraft.  The rest - 400 or so - would be small turboprops, with very few lighter aircraft.

This is because the approach path over the town, which descends from 1600ft to 1200ft as it crosses the town, will only be used when the wind direction is from the east (30% of the time) by medium or large jets and by smaller passenger carrying aircraft executing a full instrument approach in conditions of low cloud and/or poor visibility.

These smaller aircraft will, in good weather, be able to avoid overflying Woodbridge when they are landing towards the east.  Take off and departure routes by jets and turboprops will avoid flying over Woodbridge by a large margin, in all conditions.  The town and its immediate surroundings will be marked on charts as a "no-fly" area for general aviation aircraft, which comprise 85% or more of the total movements.

Thus, we expect an average of 1.4 movements per day over Woodbridge, of which one or two in a week would be a jet, after 10 years of operation.  At that time, we expect the airport to reach a plateau, having achieved its natural level of demand in its catchment area.

The 1,028 extra daily road movements that we predict after 10 years represent an increase of about 11% over what there would be then, without the airport operation.  compared to many local airports, the road access to Bentwaters is good.  By no means all these movements will use the route via Melton.

Woodbridge and its amenities will be just as undisturbed by aircraft as, for example, Exeter City is by Exeter airport, for exactly the same reasons.   Exeter's Cathedral close, nearly under the approach path from the south-west to Exeter Airport, is precisely the same distance from the runway as Woodbridge's Thoroughfare.  It remains the peaceful place it has been for 900 years, apart from tourists, buskers, street theatre and the sound of practice on the cathedral organ. Exeter's operations are very similar to what we expect at Bentwaters after 10 years.


More Time Needed for Decision
31 July - Richard Smith, EADT

Planners have received 1,500 letters about  AIA's Bentwaters development plan, some suggesting a public enquiry.  Even if permission is granted, planes will not fly out of Bentwaters until 1999, because SCDC want more details before making their planning decision.

More precise information is being sought from the applicants; on the pattern of local flight movements, the likely noise impact, the number of flying movements, the future of aircraft maintenance and [road] traffic generation.  When this data is available, SCDC will provide interested organisations and individuals another opportunity to comment.

SCDC planners met the airport project team this week and expect a response in early autumn.   Another consultation exercise will be undertaken and SCDC will not make a decision until those results are known.


Shock Verdict in Airport Poll
Telephone Voters 60-40 in Favour of Scheme
29 July - Richard Smith, EADT

EADT's front page headline story covered the result of the EADT's telephone poll.  The team behind the plans were celebrating after the majority of people calling the EADT's telephone voted in favour of the idea.  The total calls was more than 5,500, with 60% saying "YES."

The calls registered the highest ever response to an EADT poll, with 5,583 votes.  3,356 voted YES and 2,227 voted NO to an airport.  This showed once more that the plan for AIA has provoked a huge debate among Suffolk residents.  But the result was contrary to the representations received by SCDC, where planners have handled more than 1,000 letters, the majority of which oppose an airport.   The results is also contrary to opinions expressed in the postbag received by the EADT, where the majority have also argued against an airport.

The scheme's project manager, Yann Borgstedt, admitted yesterday that he had been worried that the phone poll would result in a resounding 'no' for the plans.  He said "I am very happy with the result.  I think it shows that a lot of people in the area realise that an airport would be of great benefit to the region."

However, it is becoming increasingly likely that the airport team will scale down the size of the plan to make it more in line with SCDC's planning brief.  Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer says the plan for up to 80,000 movements annually is too big.

Mr Borgstedt conceded that alterations could be required to make the idea take off.   Mr Gummer added that "...letters must therefore take precedence over a telephone poll run by a newspaper..."


Have Your Say
EADT Invites Readers to a Telephone Vote
27 July - Richard Smith, EADT

EADT's front page headline story covered a detailed 'pro and con' discussion about the proposed airport at Bentwaters, and invited readers to phone either a YES or NO telephone number to record their opinion.

In a two-page spread inside, there was yet another discussion of details of why it would be good and why it would be bad.  Importantly, for the first time Ken Blowers of the EADT had a graphic showing the likely flight paths, based on normal civilian aircraft landing procedures, and the angle of the Bentwaters runway.

This showed that in one direction, aircraft would commence their final approach over Ipswich, be down to around 1200 feet over Melton and 600 feet over Eyke.  When using the opposite landing direction, descent would be just off the coast between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness, going over Iken and the B1078 near Tunstall Common.  The graphic noted that aircraft noise would be very noticeable 1.5 miles each side of the flight path.

Fred Mouawad, who is financing the redevelopment said "I have a vision for this area and for the community, and am totally committed to turning around the future of the former Bentwaters.  This I will do by developing the site into a unique, and to a great extent, self-sustaining area in which to live and work.  Suffolk will come into the new millennium with an enviable modern airpark, a business airport and enterprise park which will be mutually supporting.  Few areas in the world can boast such an opportunity."


Mountain of Protest Mail
Council Besieged by Bentwaters Letters
18 July - Richard Smith, EADT

Planning Officers have received sackfuls of mail, giving opinions on the future of the former Bentwaters air base.  More than 1,000 letters have been received by SCDC - most of them opposed to the scheme.  The debate is likely to be the greatest issue in Suffolk since the Sizewell B nuclear power station inquiry.

The consultation period for the planned AIA closed yesterday, leaving planners with a mountain of mail.  They will spend the rest of the year assessing the arguments and obtaining more information from the airport project team.   They hope to reach their conclusions by Christmas 1998.

Different from past planning debates is that individuals have written logical, well-argued cases for or against the plan, they have not just signed a standard letter.  The National Trust are concerned that the peace will be spoilt, leading to a decline in visitors to such places as Sutton Hoo, Orford Ness, Dunwich Heath, Kyson Hill and Pin Mill.

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer is now not in favour of the airport because it will be too big and he does not think planning permission will be given.  "An airport for the number of movements envisaged is outside the planning brief."   "Even a smaller is not acceptable to me. The company should get on with what was originally proposed."

SCDC councillors have three options:

  •  Refuse the plans on various grounds

  •  Refuse specifically because the airport application is premature while a review of the Suffolk Coastal Local Plan is taking place

  •  Accept the scheme - however, the airport is a departure from the county council's structure plan and the Government could decide to "call in" the application and hold a public inquiry.

Even if the scheme is accepted, there will be many weeks of negotiations required on legal agreements.

There are still some vital information not yet available - such as flight paths and angles of descent.


Villagers say Yes to Airpark
Hundreds vote in favour of the project
13 July - Richard Smith, EADT

Hundreds of residents living near the proposed Anglia International Airpark at former RAF Bentwaters have voted in favour of the project.  Rendlesham Parish Council organised a referendum of all the old village and the new housing estates.

629 leaflets were distributed.  There was a 45% return.  60% of those who voted said they are in favour of flying returning to the base.  This means that around 170 households - representing maybe more than 500 people - said yes to flying.  But that leaves a substantial number who said no, and in Eyke there is overwhelming opposition to the present plans.

Rendlesham Parish Council has now decided to support cautiously plans for an airport, but not one as big as planned by AIA.  They want tight controls imposed by SCDC to limit flying, traffic, noise and air pollution.  They are also calling for a public inquiry.

Jeremy Schofield (SCDC Planning Director) attended a public meeting in Butley village hall, to answer questions about the content of the planning application but not to discuss the council's views.


Ex-air base Should be a Haven for Wildlife
MP urges SCDC to say NO to developers
8 July - Matthew Lowe, EADT

Plans for an airport at RAF Bentwaters have been met with disgust by the Countryside Commission.  In a report published by the commission, giving advice to the Government, they "Insisted on the return to green field status" of the site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  David Vose, senior countryside officer, said "It's certainly of great concern to us and we would definitely oppose any major development to it."

"The Government should give a lead in its planning decisions to demonstrate to others the very high degree of protection AONBs should enjoy." he added.  The concern came hours before a public meeting which was held at Bromeswell Parish Hall last night, giving local residents a chance to air their views on the proposals.

A newly formed lobbying group, Action Against Anglia Airpark (4A), attended the talks, calling for a public inquiry is the only way forward, and we have right on our side.  We are providing a forum for action and people can come and express their views and collect information on the proposals from us.

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, urged the council to say no to developers and inquiry.   "What worries me is that if we take it wider than a local issue some inspector may give them more than the planning brief allows because you can't give them less," he said.  "We should not be moved beyond the planning brief because they paid their money on the basis of that, and the price they paid to the public was less because of those restrictions.  We want the development but we do not want a different kind of development.  If we wanted an international airport we would have told them so.  This is just greediness and while being greedy they are not doing the development that needs to be done."


Don't Let Them Fly in the Face of Public Opinion
Before a decision is made, we need a public inquiry
6 July - Greg Luton, Director of Suffolk Preservation Society,
writing the Comment section in the EADT

For many years the Suffolk Preservation Society - as County Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England - has grappled with the twofold goals of safeguarding the buildings and landscape of Suffolk.  But at the same time it has been ensuring our county is a place where people want to live and work both now and in the future.  The Bentwaters dilemma is a good example of the issues we face.

Since the departure of the Americans from Bentwaters, most people in Suffolk have been concerned about its future. No-one wants to see the site crumble and decay and no-one wants to see the new community at Rendlesham suffering from indecision about the future use of the redundant airfield.

The busy airport that AIA proposes would be in a nationally recognised AONB and in the Heritage Coast area which is so well promoted by our local tourist agencies.   It was only a quirk of history that in a time of national need in the second world war an airfield was built.  For years there has been peace in the air over the AONB.  Now is not the time to turn back the clock and resume flying.  Some estimates suggest a plane taking off or landing every three minutes, for 12 hours every day of the year, over the quiet beaches of Orford Ness, the tranquillity of Boyton marshes and the little lanes around Hollesley.  Nearby, supporters of the Aldeburgh Festival await the outcome.

The decision will affect generations of Suffolk people.  It is incumbent on all of us to ensure a considered decision is taken, after full exposure of the facts.  We must examine carefully the statistics offering more jobs, flights and cars.  It is wrong to ask our local decision-makers alone to decide something this important - there are county and regional dimensions.

The system allows for a public inquiry.  Let's have it.


Public Inquiry Urged
Bentwaters plea to Deputy PM
6 July - Julian Ford, EADT

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will today be urged to hold a full public inquiry into plans for a commercial airport at Bentwaters, the EADT can reveal.  The inquiry is being demanded by Ros Scott, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Suffolk County council.  Her call will add momentum to the growing call for an inquiry.

Last night Mrs Scott's call for an inquiry won the backing of Lord Bridges of Orford, just hours before he was due to raise the matter of the former U.S. air base in the House of Lords.

Lord Bridges will table a question in the House today, asking whether SCDC should have sole responsibility for deciding whether to give plans for an airport the go-ahead in an AONB.  "I do not think it is reasonable for any local authority to make decisions on an AONB," he said "It's loading a huge weight on them to make decisions of such magnitude."

"I do not think the council has the requisite authority to make decisions when they are in the process of amending their own local plan," Lord Bridges added, disputing the benefits of the proposed airport on the local economy and jobs.


Nightmare Scenario
30 June - Richard Smith, EADT

The controversy over RAF Bentwaters hotted up yesterday, as residents living at the edge of the runway voiced their opposition to the scheme.  Public meetings are being called and demands for a public inquiry are growing daily.

AIA are playing down fears that 80,340 movements annually will seriously harm the quality of life at Rendlesham and surrounding villages.  The actual figures could be a lot less - 80,340 is a "worst case scenario."

The campaign for a public inquiry is growing and Rachel Bridges, of Orford, said that people had been shocked to discover the scale of the proposed airport.  The feeling is growing that this is not a local matter - it is now regional or even national significance.


New Action Group to Save Countryside
20 June - EADT

A new pressure group may be formed to fight proposals which threaten the Suffolk countryside.  A public meeting has been called in Ipswich with the declared air of creating a "task force" to set up an emergency action plan to try to save greenfield sites.

Among the issues scheduled for debate are the threat to create a major civil airport at the former Bentwaters military base.

Nigel Gansell, one of the two people behind the new initiative said the idea came as a result of publication of readers' letters in the EADT over the past 12 months.

The suggested name for the group is Suffolk Countryside at Risk (SCAR).  SCAR would lobby local authorities to try to persuade them to reject development proposals which would damage the countryside.


Walk-out from Meeting
18 June - EADT

Dozens of people walked out of a public meeting at Butley village hall, close to the Bentwaters air base, when planning officers refused to discuss the airport planning application for the site.  The parish audit meeting is part of a series of forums organised by SCDC to gauge public feeling on local planning matters.

The proposals have brought swift opposition from local people worried about the pollution and traffic.

Many people were hoping to quiz district council officers, including assistant director of planning and leisure, about the plan.  Some were outraged to be told that Bentwaters was not on the agenda.

Richard Taylor from Tunstall said "These meetings are meant to be to discuss local concerns and the proposals are the biggest issue.  It ended in uproar. About half the 100 or so people at the meeting walked out and said they would hold their own meeting about the planning application."

Mike Sherwen from Melton said   "People tend to like the peace and quiet living here.  The danger is that many people will miss the opportunity to get their views in about the application as the closing date is July 17."


Delight or Plane Daft?
13 June - Richard Smith, EADT

Linn Barringer, web page editor, comments: Below is a much edited version of Richard Smith's excellent two-page spread in today's EADT. Richard Smith's piece is a major summary of both sides of the argument about whether the planning application for Anglia International Airpark should be given the go-ahead.

An EADT reader who supports AIA's plans fears the plan will be rejected because of pressure groups, and the area will stagnate.

Yann Borgstedt said they can't wait long for a decision.  A Christmas 98 deadline is rumoured.

If the plans go to a public inquiry, the airport may never take off.

There is concern that if it's very successful it will take over the area - people are worried what it will be like in 20 years.

Jon Cousens said there is an economic need for scheduled flights, charter planes and employment.   And there will be 500 more homes.

Locals say this link is critical - the airport is OK as long as New Rendlesham is developed in tandem.  There was considerable disquiet that, at a public meeting,  the team would not comment about the domestic side.

Noise and traffic, in area that has been quiet since 1993, will dominate the debate.

Projected vehicle traffic is 1,029 - this will not require a new road link to the A12 - a road which SCDC is against.

Plans will soon be on display at the AIA site office at Rendlesham.  Opinions are invited by the council, by 17 July.

Ray Herring, SCDC member for Rendlesham:
Many see prospects for of a better job or a business opportunity.
Noise and traffic are top of the concerns.
No-one is asking for, or offering, another Stansted, nor is it a realistic option.
It is difficult to get grips with what the proposals really mean.
The non-technical summary is far too vague.
The environmental statement is poorly structured.
Proposals for 10-year growth are realistic.
Charter flights seem very optimistic.
Recreational flying is fun if you are the pilot, less attractive if you are on the ground.
Aircraft maintenance has tremendous potential.
Business demand will be the main force when the developer makes a start.
This proposals deals only with the airport - locals are rightly concerned that New Rendlesham will take second place.
The accompanying master plan must provide a balance between housing and jobs.

Bob Feltwell, Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce:
An exciting opportunity to develop economic activity.
The majority of Chamber members believe this will be a catalyst for creation of jobs and air links, supporting continued development of businesses in the county.
We call on members who support the proposals to write to Yann Borgstedt, or email him at AIA(a)

Greg Luton, director of Suffolk Preservation Society:
It is easy to say "no" to change.
It is more courageous to examine changes and to embrace the positive.
The SPS is pragmatic - we don't want to turn the clock back.
We are a conservation group who want to support growth and development - but not at any cost.
Bentwaters lies in one of England's 38 AONBs, along with the South Downs and Cotswolds.
They are places to live and work, and of beauty and tranquility.
Thousands visit and live in the peace of the Heritage Coast, Snape Maltings and the network of narrow roads, shingle beaches and open spaces.
In doing so, they support the local economy.
Much needs to be done at Bentwaters and Rendlesham.
A major airport with flights every few minutes is unlikely to provide the answer.


House Prices Take Off
9 June - EADT

House prices at the former Bentwaters American air base have rocketed by more than 50% and residents believe they will rise further if the airport project takes off.

One house on the Rendlesham Park estate was bought for £28,000 in 1993 - it is now worth £45,000.


Plea for Inquiry over Bentwaters
Growth supported, but not at any cost
4 June - David Green, EADT

Suffolk Preservation Society is calling for a public inquiry into the plans for an airport at Bentwaters, because the latest proposals to attract "jumbo jets" and 250,000 passengers annually by 2010 was a worrying development.

SPS director Greg Luton: "We support the growth of the local economy, but not at any cost."  SPS is particularly concerned about the impact on the AONB.  "Experience elsewhere shows that it would be almost impossible to limit subsequent development, which might have a major impact on the AONB, " he Luton said.

SPS points out that government inspectors agreed in 1993/4 to only a low-key aviation facility, limited to what the local road system could bear.  Open-ended enlargement was ruled out.

SPS believe the airport proposal is too important to be left to SCDC, and should be made the subject of a public inquiry.


Business Favour New Airport
2 June - Graham Dines, EADT

Yann Borgstedt, project manager for the airport, presented an environmental impact analysis to a meeting of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce meeting.  More than 100 businessmen attended.

Suffolk's business leaders gave their support to proposals to start commercial flying from Bentwaters.

Bob Feltwell, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce said they would write to SCDC urging it to grant planning permission.

If planning consent is granted in September, AIA will open soon after for business flights to airports in the UK and near continent.

Borgstedt said the airpark could handle fully loaded Boeing 737s but was also optimistic of attracting service contracts at the extensive hangar facilities which could accommodate Boeing 747s.

He added that there will be no night flights and was hopeful that the application, lodged on 21 May, would be approved within 16 weeks.

Alfred Reeves, president of the Chamber of Commerce welcomed the plans, saying "...great economic benefit... it will create jobs for the next generation... I do not think the volume of flights will create a nuisance..."

Mr Reeves is finance director of Fred Olsen Group and said his firm would switch from Stansted to Bentwaters if feasible.


Airport - 'Door to Europe'
Business urged to back Bentwaters Dream
1 June - Richard Cornwell, EADT

Business community is being urged to support plans for a new airport in Suffolk, to boost the county's economy and improve links with Europe.  Supporters of the scheme say it will aid trade with Holland, Germany, France and Belgium, creating thousands of jobs.

Suffolk companies met developers of the GBP 20 million venture.  Development managers say growth of the enterprise park will be "demand led."

Villagers from Kesgrave to Iken are concerned about Boeing 757s and 767s flying into Bentwaters.

But Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer believes an airport with daytime executive flights to the near continent could be crucial to developing the Suffolk economy.  He urged businessmen to grab the opportunity.  "Bentwaters is an ideal and proper place to develop," he said.  Gummer also said that it was better to 'recycle' a brownfield site than to develop on a greenfield site and thus protect other parts of our rural area.

Businessman Manfred Bahr, who continued flying from Ipswich airport even after it was closed said he would prefer Ipswich  "but any airport is better than no airport and I am wholeheartedly behind this scheme."

Kesgrave resident Walter Bunn said "...we got rid of the Americans and everything became tranquil. Now we are going to get it all back and more... now I'm going to move."

Gummer had every sympathy with the villagers but felt the difficult and poor road network would not make it attractive for charter flights.


Bentwaters Contamination 'not worrying'
22 May 1998 - Richard Smith, EADT

Radiological contamination has been discovered at Bentwaters.  A survey team searching for depleted uranium, thorium, radium and other contaminants has identified eight areas of concern on the technical site.

There are five outdoor meshed concrete pads, two sections of paved surface adjacent to the control tower and ground near two buildings.

"Careful evaluation of this survey data indicated that the areas did not exceed established action levels and do not technically require remediation."

The survey concentrated on ammunition storage areas, burn pits, waste dumps, maintenance areas and inspection shops.


Noise won't Affect Snape Concerts
22 May 1998 - EADT

Special arrangements will be made with the world-famous Snape Maltings concert hall to ensure that prestigious concerts are not disrupted by aircraft noise from Bentwaters.

Jon Cousens, of the airport project team said "We have had meetings with them and if there is a concert going on, they can let us know and we can take the appropriate action."

He added "Noise is expected to be very low, due to the small number of movements, the size of the airport land and effective noise reduction measures enforced by progressively stricter bans on noisy aircraft."

SBAL believes that only a few houses in Friday Street, south of the runway, will be adversely affected.


Business & Tourism Flights
22 May 1998 - EADT

500 charter planes, carrying 75,000 passengers to popular sunspots could use Anglia International Airpark, while business flights may go to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Edinburgh.  Up to GBP 20 million must be invested on the airport and its infrastructure, and the 500,000 sq. ft. enterprise park.

Bob Feltwell of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said "The airport is something the area needs and we understand they have taken care of most of the environmental concerns."

Greg Luton of Suffolk Preservation Society is worried the airport will be too big, adding "The scale is much larger than originally proposed. The country lanes can barely accommodate the existing farm traffic.   To have 10,000 vehicle movements a day more will probably erode the special character of the area."

Jackie Pooley, clerk to Eyke Parish Council expected there to be mixed views among local people.

SCDC has been asked to deliver its verdict on the plans submitted yesterday, within four months.  No plans have been submitted for the domestic site.

The airport will be operated by Suffolk Business Airport Ltd on behalf of the owners, Seebrook Holdings, which bought the former base from the MoD in May 1997.

The largest planes expected to use the airport are Boeing 757 and 767.  At the end of a  demand-led ten year growth period, forecasts are for 250,000 passengers and 80,340 aircraft movements annually.   The bulk of movements being non-passenger operational manoeuvres.


Bentwaters Plans Submitted!
21 May 1998 - Radio and TV

While driving home from Brentwood, I heard the news that, at last, the plans for change of use of the former RAF Bentwaters air base have been submitted to Suffolk Coastal District Council.  The story was repeated on local TV News.

The plans anticipate aircraft maintenance on the base because of the ability to take large aircraft, coupled with the relatively low cost of land.  Initially business flights, then later holiday charter flights are planned culminating, after 10 years, in passenger volumes of 250,000 per year.


Residents left in the lurch
13 April 1998 - Richard Smith, EADT

Bitter and frustrated residents at Rendlesham have slammed SCDC for "inactivity" over community improvements.

A survey of 60 residents, the majority of whom had lived there less than two years, reported that they still cannot see any major signs of development at the site. SCDC and SCC have been criticised for the 'low profile.'

Carolyn Webb, who carried out the survey, also asked for comment from numerous organisations, parish councils, private land owners and Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer - he did not return his questionnaire.

SCDC's chief executive Tom Griffin said: "I refute any claims about inactivity.  The council has been heavily involved in dealing with the MoD, and various purchasers as they arose, and working with the local community.


Airport Bid in Taxi Mode
7 April 1998 - Richard Smith, EADT

The dream of turning a former RAF Bentwaters into a regional airport with international links is still stuck on the runway.

Site manager Kate Lacey said "We have a consortium of two or three companies who have worked together before and who are looking at everything including the impact on the environment, traffic, noise, etc."

"The planning application is almost ready and it should be in this month. It is in line with what the planners and the MoD have been saying and it is not going to be a change.  When the planning application gets through, we hope to start flying in the late summer."


Army Flying - a Threat to AIA?
2 April 1998 - Richard Smith, EADT

Worried residents believe that the transformation of RAF Woodbridge into a military training centre could be detrimental to the town's tourism business.

Some believe that flying is an unnecessary intrusion for the town's 10,000 inhabitants and thousands of summer tourists.

Others fear that the military flying zone could jeopardise the establishment of civil aviation at the Anglia International Airpark planned for RAF Bentwaters.

Mayor David Caddick told his council's planning committee: "The danger is ...  If the MoD declare Woodbridge to be a military flying zone, they will not be able to have civil flying at Bentwaters.  I do not want to see the Bentwaters development affected because that will create more jobs than the MoD training."

Councillor Tony Hubbard said: "I think this use for RAF Woodbridge will be a natural boost to our economy.  I think we should encourage it.  However, there will need to be certain conditions about the use of low-flying helicopters and aircraft at weekends and nights, so that there is no unnecessary intrusion to the enjoyment of living in Woodbridge."


18 February 1998, EADT

Jobs Advertised

This advertisement appeared in today's East Anglian Daily Times:

will open on
Saturday Mornings
until March 7, 1998

Drop in or call
to find out what jobs are on offer

If you are interested in working at
Anglia International Airport
(formerly known as RAF Bentwaters)
call in and register your interest
at the
JobCentre *
59 The Thoroughfare, Woodbridge



Flights Scheduled but No Airport
28 January 1998, EADT

Airport plans remain on the drawing board although the first flights are still scheduled for the summer.   BIL aim to have 3,700 scheduled business flights to UK and European cities within the next five years. They also expect air freight movements.

They believe they can attract 23,700 revenue-earning landings in the first year of operating, including corporate aircraft operators, air taxi companies, private owners and flying clubs.

AIA remains optimistic that they can turn the mothballed air base into a fully-equipped airport in the space of a few months, putting Suffolk back on the aviation map following the closure of Ipswich airport.

Site manager Kate Lacey told Rendlesham Parish Council: "Very little, visibly, has changed but we are in the process of putting together a planning application and still talking to the CAA to get a licence and approval."

She added that "There will probably be a planning application within two months and I hope you will start seeing our own flags and signs soon."

SCDC are happy to see flying return to the area but acceptance of the plans will not be a formality because of objections from pressure groups.  Plans are on hold because of the writs that have not yet been resolved in the High Court.  A spokesman for the plaintiffs said they were a long way from being resolved.


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.