Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge

2000 News of the Twin Bases


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Mostly taken from the East Anglian Daily Times

Noisy guns

Richard Smith, EADT, 11 December

A new gun club has pledged to stop clay pigeon shooting at the former Bentwaters air base until proposed soundproofing measures have been approved.  A planned shoot at the former "Rod and Gun Club" was cancelled at short notice due to difficulties with residents in Tunstall and the SCDC.

Owner Neville Bilverstone opened the club a week earlier after he and his business partner Ian Lennard made a substantial investment in the building and obtained a long lease.  They have renovated the building as a social club with the aim of providing clay shooting and archery.  But nearby residents immediately complained about the noise.

Mr Bilverstone said "We want to co-operate with everybody and we do not want any aggravation. We cancelled the shoot on Saturday because we wanted to keep faith with people in the area. We lost £600 through the cancellation."

The club will build a 30-foot high bank along the edge of an escarpment on the 22-acre site.  Planning consent has been given for a gun club subject to hours of use and various conditions.  A meeting is to be held at the club to discuss the issues in dispute.

Bailiffs shut shop

Danille Nuttall, EADT, 8 December

Neil Marshall, owner of Rendlesham Stores on the domestic side of RAF Bentwaters regrettably had to close the business he has run for four years because of financial difficulties.

Mr Marshall said that he could not pay his suppliers so tried to sell the business but could not find a buyer because the lease had expired.

"We tried to keep our prices on a par with Woodbridge and below that of other stores to encourage people to come here," he said. " We were quite busy, so it is not through lack of support that we have closed."

Mr Marshall assured customers that the post office inside his shop would remain open as usual.

Improved Transport?

EADT, 8 November

Improvements in public transport will be introduced when workers are relocated to the former Bentwaters air base.  up to £200,000 will be spent on upgrading links between Woodbridge and Rendlesham.

Planning permission was given on Tuesday by SCDC for the conversion of the empty Mission Support building at Rendlesham into a new headquarters for the Woodbridge-based Rockford group of companies.  This triggers off part of a complex legal agreement, which includes funding the transport upgrade.  There was widespread support for Rockford's plans, at the SCDC committee meeting.

No room at the base

Richard Smith, EADT, 29 September

The Church of England is fighting a losing battle over building a home for the Rev Martin Flowerdew, vicar of Rendlesham church, which was the base chapel.  The CofE plan to build a four-bedfoom vicarage with a double garage in Suffolk Drive.

But the SCDC are recommended to refuse the plan, following planning officers receiving objections from 12 people who do not want to lose an established open area or trees which have a Tree Preservation Order on them.  They also say that a rectory can be a busy place, generating many callers, yet no parking facilities have been provided.

Planning officers also believe the planned house would be bulky and would significantly harm the visual appearance of the area.

The Diocese of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury will be left with a piece of empty land which they bought for a substantial sum.  Church official stressed that it is essential that Mr Flowerdew has an adequate house. An alternative site is not available.

New interest but runways go

Richard Smith, EADT, 21 September

An un-named company is poised to unveil plans to move to Bentwaters air base.  It says it wants to lease or buy the Mission support building on the domestic  side of the base.  If it goes ahead, it could be the catalyst for other companies to move in.

Meanwhile the runway is being dug up with the aggregate being taken away.  There are one million tonnes to be removed, needing 50,000 lorry-loads to be taken through Eyke.

Mission Control Building

Richard Smith, EADT, 20 July

Is there good news at last for the Mission Control Building?  Seebrook Holdings, who own the base are hopeful of success with two very good inquiries about the building.  They hope that if they sell or lease the building, it will be a catalyst for further development.

81st HQ a "runway" success

Duncan Brodie, Business Editor, EADT, 8 July

Europlus Fibreoptics has doubled its workforce to 60 since moving from Melton to a workshop building on the site of RAF Bentwaters.  The company has now expanded its operations and moved into the building that was previously the Headquarters of the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at Bentwaters.

The building was opened officially by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, who described the company as "a tremendous success story" of the kind the UK needed, to prevent it becoming over-reliant on service industries.

Europlus designs and manufactures a wide range of components for linking fibreoptic cables, requiring a high degree of engineering accuracy.  Around 80% of its output is exported; a substantial volume to the United States.

Doug Deas, founder and chairman of the company, said that he would continue to champion the cause for an airport facility for businesses on the site.  Investment by Europlus will have totalled 1.5 million pounds by the end of 2000 and the workforce is expected to grow by another 20%.

Mr Deas paid tribute to Suffolk Coastal Council for its help in sourcing grant aid from the European Union.

As a tribute to those who served at the former air base, the signs and emblems of the USAF 81st Tactical Fighter Wing have been left in place, and a stone memorial is also to be erected to mark next years 50th anniversary of the unit's deployment to Bentwaters.

Crushing Blow - new Master Plan


Those who still held out hope of some form of aviation at the former Bentwaters air base have been dealt a final crushing blow.  The owners of the base are now preparing to demolish the runway.  There may be only a small section of runway left after the work is completed in seven years.  This could cater for light acraft associated with businesses on the enterprise park but Greg Vincent stressed yesterday "At the moment there are no plans for aviation."

Aviation buildings will be razed, taxi-ways, aprons and hardstandings will be ripped up. High security fencing will be taken down.  The control tower and HASs will remain.  It is hoped that the Tower may be made into a museum.

Stockpiles of crushed concrete should not ve visually intrusive to people living on the periphery of the site.  It will be transported by road, which raised fears in nearby Eyke.

The aim is to use the redundant runway area for agriculture and turn other land over to leisure uses including archery, shooting, equestrianism, athletics, land yachting and driver training.  Limited holiday accommodation will be built and a nature conservation centre will be set up to reflect the area's natural history.

Military Destruction


Aviation buildings and taxiways associated with the American occupation of RAF Bentwaters are being demolished as the prospect of flying becomes more remote.  Some of the perimeter road is being broken up.

The control tower is expected to remain and it could be turned into a museum.  An environmental statement and master plan will be unveiled in a few weeks and this will show the aim of turning land south of the runway into a wildlife park and bringing in agriculture. The owners are forging ahead with plans on numerous fronts, despite losing another buyer.


No to 20mph Limit

Richard Smith, EADT

Residents of Eyke have thrown out plans to lower the speed in their village from 30mph to 20mph.  The proposals had aroused strong passions and divided people in the village.  Janis Davis said "I do not want a pedestrian crossing outside my shop. It will reduce trade because cars will not be able to park."  Robin Pooley (the man with a van), who operates a removal business, disagreed: "The traffic in the future will be something that we have never seen. To have it going through at 20mph will be much safer.

Jets Gym

Linn Barringer

Angus Smith has recently taken over as Centre Manager for the Sports Centre at Bentwaters.  Part of the old USAF Sports Centre on the domestic side will be given the new name 'Jets Gym' in honour of the history of the base. His team is planning to open on 28th May 2000. 

Angus is also looking for photos, prints, memorabilia and history of the base.


Rendlesham Community Sports Trust
766 Suffolk Drive
IP12 2TW

Telephone 01394 460876


New church to be called St Felix

Richard Smith, Evening Star

The church at RAF Bentwaters will take its name from a saint associated with Felixstowe.   Saint Felix is to be the name of the church in the heart of the airbase at Rendlesham. The saint was a bishop from Burgundy who came as a missionary to East Anglia in 631 and set up camp at Dunwich.
More details on the page for Bentwaters Church

Russians at Bentwaters


A group of Russians have visited RAF Bentwaters as part of a fact-finding mission.  A few years ago it would have been impossible but this week they were given a tour of the facilities and made to feel welcome.  In Russia they have many empty air bases which are no longer required and have similar problems to those facing Suffolk.  The big question is what to do with 1000-acre air bases.

But Nikolai Plotnikov, a former captain with Aeroflot, is in no doubt about a future use of Bentwaters.  "My advice is that the runway should be used to relieve congestion at Heathrow and Gatwick...  I would like to see flying here.

Quarter or Half Million Penalty?

Richard Smith, EADT

The owners of the Bentwaters air base will have to pay a £250,000 penalty if they fail to provide permanent playing fields for the large number of children and teenagers who have moved from all over the country to live in Rendlesham.

A legal agreement attached to the planning permission in February 1997 states that SCDC will seek the money from the developer to install playing fields if they are not provided within five years. There is also an agreement to provide temporary playing fields within 12 months. The starting date for the legal agreement was November 1998.

However, the base owner, Seebrook Holdings Ltd, has failed to provide temporary fields within the first year and Rendlesham Parish Council is concerned that a permanent facility could be indefinitely delayed. SCDC leader Ray Herring told Rendlesham annual parish meeting: ''...if permanent playing fields are not provided within five years the developer can pay over £250,000 to the district council...''

Parish councillor Paul Hudson said: ''...We are six years down the road, the parishioners are looking to the parish council to get action and we are looking to the district council to get action.''

Rendlesham Property Services manages the base and spokesman Greg Vincent said temporary playing fields will be provided north of the sports centre. It is hoped they will be operational from the end of the year. The timing depends on negotiations with a residential developer and a demolition contractor.

Mr Vincent added they are also keen to bring in a permanent facility and this depends on buying land from a landowner adjacent to the domestic side of the base. He said the fields can not be provided on the technical side because the authorities do not want children from the housing estates crossing the A1152 to access them.

Suffolk Coastal's assistant director of planning and leisure Bob Chamberlain said that there is a £50,000 bond payable if agreed demolition work on the enterprise park is not done. Court action will be taken if other aspects of the legal agreement are not adhered to by the base owner.

No quarry at Bentwaters

Richard Smith, EADT

Planning regulations prevent the former Bentwaters airbase from being turned into a quarry for extraction of sand and gravel.  This assurance was given yesterday after concern was expressed that there were one million tonnes of sand under the surface which could be an attractive commercial proposition for a developer.

There never has been a planning application to dig up the sand. In recent years, though, speculation has grown that someone will try to extract the sand, leading to a substantial traffic increase.  Jeremy Schofield, the council’s director of planning and leisure, said sand and gravel were not included in the current definition of demolition material so they could not be removed from Bentwaters.

The comments arose in a debate on the relaxation of a legal agreement relating to redevelopment of the old American base near Woodbridge. The complexity of legal agreements has put off potential purchasers. Seebrook Holdings Ltd is trying to sell the 1,000-acre site which was bought from the Ministry of Defence in 1997.

Councillors agreed that the agreement should be restructured and that parish councils at Melton, Bromeswell, Eyke, Sutton, Capel St Andrew, Wantisden, Tunstall and Rendlesham would have to be consulted.

Legal Difficulties?

Richard Smith, EADT

The delays caused by the public concerns over a possible airport at Bentwaters, and the legal requirements put on any owner, are now having an adverse effect on the chances of the present owner, Seebrook Holdings Ltd, re-selling the site.

There has been significant delay in meeting various obligations under a 1997 planning agreement.   Seebrook Holdings Ltd want those obligations relaxed to help them sell the site.   It is difficult for them to work out a way forward for the runway and technical side.

One important clause relates to trucks removing demolished buildings from the base.  SCDC want the completion for clearance relaxed by several years, finishing in September 2005.  £50,000 costs of traffic management works in Eyke must be born by the owner of the site, and work is expected to start this summer.  Residential developers (potential buyers of the site) are reluctant or unwilling to take responsibility for obligations on the technical side.

New Vicar for Bentwater


The diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich will reopen the chapel on the domestic side before Easter 2000.   

The new vicar, the Rev Martin Flowerdew said "It is envisaged that this area will be the heart of the new community which is why the church was so keen to buy the church." 

More details on the new page for Bentwaters Church

Demolition in progress

Linn Barringer

I visited the RAF Bentwaters technical site today (31 January 2000) to take some more photographs.   Already, some of the buildings near the entrance have been demolished, including (I believe) the US Mail office.

I was told that in the very near future, buildings in the area near Wantisden church and "commie corner" were about to be demolished. That includes building 591 where Glenn Martin worked, 599 where Ron Burrell worked, the 81 EMS "earth tone" building with the (now dead) rose garden that was tended by the Sergeant, and others shown in my panorama of 1998, so vividly described by Bill Repmann

No Takers

Richard Smith, EADT

The owners of Bentwaters spent £30,000 last year on a marketing campaign which failed to attract national companies. Feedback from the campaign shows that companies outside Suffolk do not want to relocate to the former air base near Woodbridge and they consider the lack of an airport to be a major disadvantage for the county.

DTZ Debenham Thorpe spokesman Greg Vincent said: ''We are marketing on a national basis. But the problem is getting people to move out to the area. ''...we have not been able to persuade somebody from Peterborough to bring a call centre here...''

Mr Vincent told Rendlesham Parish Council that he has regular discussions with the East of England Development Agency but he admitted that ''it is not easy'' to attract new business.

But there is some good news. Europlus, an engineering company which relocated from Melton to Rendlesham a year ago, is proving to be a success story. The company wanted a commercial airport on the site and considered moving to Norfolk when the airport was turned down by planners. But Europlus is staying and will expand. The 25-year-old company specialises in making fibre optics components and had 4,000 sq ft in Melton. It moved to 14,000 sq ft on the air base and is taking over the former 81st TFW headquarters building to gain another 14,000 sq ft.

During the year 15 new jobs will be created to bring the workforce up to 60 and £500,000 worth of new equipment will be installed. Europlus Chairman Doug Deas says they will open the control bunker for visiting Americans.

''For us, moving here has been marvellous. The rents and overheads are not high, we can take advantage of the open area for walking, and we would not have been able to expand if it had not been for Bentwaters.

''The reason people are not moving here is because people can not take Suffolk seriously until it has some sort of flying. But I do not think an airport is dead yet because the local plan can be revised every four years,'' said Mr Deas.

Mr Vincent says that advantages offered by the air base include unlimited parking and good road access. However, Eyke is now bearing the brunt of an increase in traffic and is waiting for a 20mph speed limit and various road safety measures.


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.