Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge

1999 News of the Twin Bases


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Edited, mostly from the East Anglian Daily Times

Base Sale Near Again

By Richard Smith, EADT

Yet another multi-million pound deal to sell the Bentwaters air base is under way.   Complicated negotiations, which include alteration to some of the SCDC planning regulations, are taking place.   The unidentified company behind the purchase wants to use the runway side of the site for a manufacturing operation, involving the expansion of an existing product.   A February completion of the deal is hoped for.

29 January 2000 is the planned date for re-opening the American sports hall as a centre for squash, fitness and children's softplay area.   Other forthcoming projects include the clearance of old Nissen huts by a sub-station, and tidying the area around the church.


No Flying from Bentwaters, eh?

An Email to Linn Barringer from Doug Deas

I have found you website extremely interesting as my company is housed in Building 53 airside. I am about to sign up on the lease for the 81st Fighter Wing Headquaters Building.

Included in this lease is the hardened control bunker which is situated in the adjacent lot.  Some of your correspondents may be familiar with these buildings and I would be pleased to hear from them.  I fly my private aircraft from Bentwaters so you will be please to know flying has not been banished altogether from that historic airfield.  The aircraft is housed in one of the brown hangers (there are eight of them) on the south side of 07-25, it is the one on the end with a paint booth and bead blast unit.

On a still day you could hear the National anthems being played six miles away and it brings a lump to the throat to think that those loud speakers on the corner of my hanger will not play those tunes again.  Progress I guess.

Incidentally, my late father worked for the USAFE 3rd at RAF South and West Ruislip from 1955 to 1968 and you may be interested to know that there was a base at Denham Studios, which I believe was a large stores depot.


New Bid for Old Base


The Chris Parker Group (CPG) unveiled plans to buy the base for £16 million, and to create between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs under its vision for the future of the former RAF Bentwaters.  CPG's previous £10 million bid to buy the base collapsed on completion day in 1996, with contractual problems which have yet to be resolved.  The base was eventually sold for £7 million.

The CPG believes it is now ideally placed to pick up where it left off and immediately bring prosperity and jobs back to the area which has suffered from controversy and uncertainty since the Americans left in 1993.

Graham Clapperton, the company's technical director, said it had planning permission from SCDC to redevelop the site, subject to signing a legal agreement to provide various benefits to the area.  Those include traffic calming measures, community facilities and a site for a primary school.

CPG wants to dig up the 2,948-metre-long runway and sell the aggregate.  Controls have already been agreed for taking away the rubble in 35 lorryloads a day.

The runway and the remaining northern side (technical site) would be turned into a leisure area with a golf course, nature reserve, lakes and water features, an equestrian centre, a 100-acre industrial park and a 50-acre science park.

The southern side (domestic site) would be used for new housing and the creation of a village centre, bringing the total population at Rendlesham to about 3,000.


New buyer for base

by Richard Smith, EADT

An unidentified new buyer has been found for the redundant RAF Bentwaters air base.  The bidder is prepared to pay millions of pounds for the whole 1,000-acre site but the success of the bid rests on the shoulders of planners at SCDC.

The bidder wants complex planning obligations relating to the base to be relaxed.  If they can be altered, the site management company believes there is a good chance the offer will be accepted.  If planners decide to stick rigidly to the obligations, the buyer may pull out, leaving the uncertainty to continue.

Plans are believed to include hundreds of houses and leisure pursuits, including archery, go-karting and equestrian activities, and a separate specialised holiday park.  Old aviation buildings are expected to be pulled down but the bomb shelters are too costly to remove.

The purchase price in May 1997 was about 7.5 million pounds. The present price could be around 17 million, taking into account the money spent in the failed attempt to set up a civil airport.


New hope at base

Front Page Headlines by Richard Smith, EADT

Power company Eastern Energy has confirmed it may move its staff to the redundant Bentwaters air base in Suffolk while its current premises undergo a refit.  The company stressed that it has not made any final decisions but did confirm that it was considering the former Mission Support building.

Even without the airport, 118 new jobs have been created and 123 residents have moved into 62 houses.  Almost 250,000 sq. ft. of space has been used for warehousing, offices, factories and other facilities.

Rendlesham shopkeeper Neil Marshall is negotiating to take up bigger premises to provide an in-store bakery, off-licence, post office, delicatessen and fresh meats in the former officers' mess.

Yesterday the air base was being used by Suffolk police for riot training.


Never an Airport

Front Page Headlines by Richard Smith, EADT

The redundant Bentwaters air base will never be a commercial airport for Suffolk.   This was the decision of Suffolk Coastal District Council at at meeting at the Rendlesham sports hall, attended by more than 100 members of the public.   Suffolk is left without a civil airport, although six sites have been earmarked for future consideration; Belstead, Bentley, Bucklesham, Copdock, Great Ashfield and Raydon.   None of these sites are AONBs.

SCDC has had to re-write its Local Plan. SCDC didn't give up without a fight. Jeremy Schofield criticised some of the government inspector's arguments, particularly about the state of the economy, and he was backed by several councillors.

There was also condemnation by councillor Jack Campbell of the high-profile campaign undertaken by anti-flying protestors.  He dismissed them as "a lot of old fogies."

This decision has not stopped several developers fine-tuning their multi-million pound bids for the 1000 acre site.


No Flying from Bentwaters - nearly definite

by Richard Smith, EADT

Planning officers have relutantly accepted a recommendation that flying should not be permitted from former Bentwaters.   A report published yesterday revealed that SCDC is preparing a major climbdown over its stance that limited flying at former RAF Bentwaters should be allowed.


No Flying from Bentwaters

by Richard Smith, EADT

The owners of the redundant Bentwaters air base have accepted that it is highly unlikely that they can turn the site into a civil airport and have decided not to challenge the report by Government Inspector George Mapson.


Bentwaters in limbo 'but future is safe'

by Richard Smith, EADT

Developers and investors are studying the redundant RAF Bentwaters before deciding whether to buy the site and launch a new scheme to replace the failed airport project.  But DTZ Debenham Thorpe, which is managing the site has assured businesses and householders that their future is safe.   There were concerns after the whole site was made available for sale.  But a DTZ spokesman said "The existing tenancy arrangements on the Enterprise Park and domestic site, and recent and imminent house sales, will not be affected by any overall sale."


Air Base for Sale - Again
Future of Bentwaters site uncertain after sell-off moves

Brakes on for Eyke
20mph limit as traffic increases

by Richard Smith, EADT

A 20mph speed limit is to be introduced in Eyke to help it cope with the increase in traffic movements to and from the former RAF Bentwaters.  However, it won't happen for several months because of statutory regulations that require advertising and consultation. Eyke Parish Council is delighted with the plan which will cost more than £50,000 and take two months to complete, starting next spring.  Daily traffic is estimated to rise from 3,500 to 14,000 vehicles, as developments continue at the air base. 


Front Page Headlines EXCLUSIVE by Richard Smith, EADT

Urgent talks were held last night after the former Bentwaters air base was put on the market.  Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer met Conservative district councillors to assess the future of the huge site now it is going up for sale for the fourth time since the Americans left in 1993.  It is believed the site could fetch up to 17.5 million pounds.

AIA spokesman Yann Borgstedt said "There has been a rumour that because we do not have the planning permission for an airport, we are going to sell it.  We will not sell it until we know the outcome of the district council's planning meeting in October about the airport.  It is not for sale at the moment."


No Plan B!

by Richard Smith, EADT

The owners of the former RAF Bentwaters are desperately seeking alternative ideas for its redevelopment.  They have a 1,000 acre site and do not know what to do with it.  After spending hundreds of thousands of pounds and 800 days, their dream of flying from the Anglia International Airpark is in tatters.

The project team now have to decide whether to pursue an alternative scheme or sell off the assets.  Spokesman Yann Borgstedt admitted "We focussed all our energies into plan A which was for an airport. There is no plan B."


Antis Win

Government Inspector's 'no' to Flying

Front page headlines EXCLUSIVE by Richard Smith, EADT

The plan to open an airport at the former Bentwaters air base has been dealt what could be a fatal blow.  The Government planning inspector's report on the SCDC's policy for the former American military air base near Woodbridge is released today.  The inspector, George Mapson, cannot support the policy to bring back flying at the site.  The anti-airport campaigners are on the verge of winning.

The inspector criticises the SCDC on three key issues:

  • the lack of a clear, unambiguous statement on the type and scale of airport that the council would permit

  • the lack of a realistic or effective strategy for imposing controls over aircraft movements and ground-based activities

  • the lack of appreciation of the full extent of harm that a civil airport could cause in this sensitive location


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.