Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge

2001 News of the Twin Bases


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Edited news, mostly taken from the East Anglian Daily Times.
News Stories, in reverse chronological order:

Movie magnet - and other uses!

Richard Smith, EADT, Thursday 28 June 2001

The former RAF Bentwaters is becoming a magnet for film makers.  Channel Four TV turned the main runway into a desert with palm trees while filming a documentary about the Long Range Desert Group, forerunner of the SAS.

A TV quiz show has booked a second visit and a production company is looking into transforming the runway into a motorway for stunt action.  Part of the taxiways, including the Victor Alert area, are regularly used by car enthusiasts for 'track days.' 

A planning application will soon be submitted, to use the the bomb stores for storing wine, while farmers are exploring ways of growing potatoes and producing ducks in the Hardened Aircraft Shelters.

A contact made by the former owner for part of the runway to be dug up comes to end this week.  Framlingham Tractors has held a mini agricultural show at the site.


Red Tape hits plans for air base reunion

Richard Smith, EADT, Tuesday 19 June 2001 (no edits, verbatim from the newspaper)

AMERICAN military personnel preparing for a major reunion at the Bentwaters air base yesterday criticised a council for demanding planning permission before a children's flying day could be held.

The Children's Air Experience Day at the huge runway near Woodbridge was among one of the highlights of the last day of the 50th anniversary reunion of the 81st Fighter Interceptor Wing (FIW).

More than 50 Americans who served at the American air base before the departure of the FIW nearly 10 years ago are preparing for a range of activities to celebrate their close links with Suffolk.

On September 15, the day of the scheduled event to take under-privileged children flying, the Americans will tour the base in Second World War trucks and they will attend a ceremony to unveil a memorial stone. There will be a fly-past by aircraft from the American bases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath, and a C47 Dakota has also been booked.

They are contributing memorabilia for the control tower and they are manning burger and soda stands in a nostalgic return to the days when nearly 13,000 people used to work at the twin bases of Bentwaters and Woodbridge.

But now a shadow has been cast over the celebrations after Suffolk Coastal District Council demanded that the flying event for children had to have planning permission.

Businessman Doug Deas, chairman of Europlus Technologies at the air base, has paid for the event since it started in 1999. He uses his own plane to entertain the children and pays the £300 insurance annually. He decided to refuse to pay the £200 required for a planning application and give £500 to the charity, Ipswich Holiday Help for Children, in a protest over the council's attitude.

Chuck "Flipper" Wrobel, secretary for the 81st reunion crew, said the issue had been reviewed by the advisory committee and a board of officers. It was decided that the American reunion party would fit in with whatever Mr Deas had on the agenda for September 15.

"We, of course, are disappointed, but not surprised or shocked. We have politicians and layer after layer of government in the USA as well. It is often, unfortunately, the hidden agenda or stray bullet that gets you. Our main intent is to spend time with and appreciate our Brit friends and the many ties we have with Suffolk. We shall not be deterred as many of our members are old combat pilots who have survived more than can be imagined.

"We flew side-by-side with the RAF and are very proud of our fellow pilots. Most of us continue to have strong bonds with Brits in the Suffolk area."


Children's Air Experience Day grounded

Matthew Lowe, EADT 26 May 2001

Dozens of under-privileged children from the Ipswich Holiday Help for Children charity have been denied the chance of a dream flight over Suffolk because SCDC insist that the event needs planning permission, despite the law saying that flying can be carried on 28 days in any year.

Chairman of Europlus Technologies, Doug Deas, has paid for the event since it started in 1999.  With other pilots, Doug uses his own plan to entertain children during the special day.  He pays the £300 insurance required each year but refused to pay an extra £200 to the council so the day can go ahead.  Instead, he has donated £500 to the charity.

"...last year was really super..." said Doug, "...we have the ability to fly kids and raise money and I can't believe the council's stance, it is a disgrace." 

Jeremy Schofield, direct of planning and leisure at SCDC defended the decision, saying it was based on legal advice. Whether it requires permission is not related to ...whether it is a charity... decision is based purely on legal grounds."


I could not resist adding my own comment. Linn Barringer says "Where are our local councils' hearts?  Woodbridge Town Council recently turned down a grant application from the local Air Training Corps, now Suffolk Coastal refuses a charitable flying day (correction, just a MORNING of one day). Why doesn't the charitable status affect it? Does everything have to be decided by the letter of the law?  No, sometimes following the spirit might be more appropriate. I suspect that SCDC is justifiably fearful of yet another paranoid outburst from the selfish 'incomers' who want to stop ALL flying from Bentwaters, for ever, at ALL COSTS.  These NIMBYs would doubtless label this Children's Charitable Event as the "thin end of the wedge" or the "precursor to Jumbo Jets at Bentwaters."

SCDC will say, of course, that they have NOT REFUSED permission and that Mr Deas is the one who could make it happen by spending £200 on an application that MIGHT be approved.  And they're probably, technically, right.  But there is no heart in that assertion, just beaurocratic obstructiveness.  They can take no pride in the fact that their "decision is based purely on legal grounds."


Speed Record Attempt

Extract from MCN (MotorCycle News) March 21 2001, submitted by Lee James (thank you, Lee)

"Barely a week goes by without a blind rider announcing a speed record attempt. And while every one of them deserves our respect, Graham Hicks has an added obstacle to cope with - he's deaf as well. Hicks hopes to top 100mph on a 110bhp Suzuki quad bike at RAF BENTWATERS on May 23.

He is hoping to establish a new category in the Guinness Book - fastest rider of any kind on a quad bike. He will be guided by stunt rider Matt Coulter - otherwise known as the Kangaroo Kid - who will ride pillion to guide Hicks during the attempt.

The ride is to raise money for deafblind UK's Touch Appeal, which is on course to raise £3.5 million to build the National Centre for Deafblindness in Peterborough in Cambridgshire.

For more information, visit the organisation's website at: or  MCNs site


Vicar Quits Rendlesham

Richard Smith, EADT 20 March 2001

The Rev Martin Flowerdew is quitting in protest over the failure to build him a new vicarage.  Parishioners in Rendlesham are disappointed, describing Martin as a "splendid" vicar.  The vicar and the Parochial Church Council laid the blame on the Diocese of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury.

Land was bought in Suffolk and planning permission was sought to build a vicarage. Local objections drove the Suffolk Coastal District Council to refuse permission, twice, for various reasons, including loss of an open space and trees.

Despite the Flowerdews living in a spacious four-bedroom house, Rev Flowerdew said "Sadly, my wife and I have been unhappy in this accommodation, not having a firm base to work from. Being unhappy here meant we had to leave."  He added that "It is like everything here in Rendlesham, one step forward, two steps back, and I am sorry to have added to that."



Homes to be sold?

Richard Smith, EADT 10 March 2001

A major announcement is expected soon on the future of 300 homes formerly occupied by Americans, on the Bentwaters Park and Watersfield Park estates on the domestic side of RAF Bentwaters.  The owners of the rented accommodation, Leigh Estates UK Ltd, are preparing to write to all the tenants.  More than 1,000 people will be affected.  Those without jobs or the means to pay a mortgage are concerned that they could be forced to leave their homes.

JSM presently manage the properties. Their spokesman said "We wrote to tenants last summer saying that they will be selling those properties at some stage..."



Contact by Linn Barringer

23 February 2001

As some of you have have asked, I thought I would report that I have spoken on the telephone to both Bill and John Kemball, the new owners of the majority of the 'technical side' of RAF Bentwaters. I was very grateful for them returning my call as they might be a bit busy just now!

Now that Vernon Drane no longer holds the key (figuratively and actually) to the whole of RAF Bentwaters, I will ask John Kemball if he can find the time to discuss such things as access to the site, the possibility of a museum, mutual benefit from a relationship between Bentwaters Parks and, etc.  It is an encouraging sign that the Kemballs have returned to the use of "Bentwaters" in the title of their new venture.  I wish them well.


GREAT NEWS! Bentwaters sold to local farmer

Richard Smith, EXCLUSIVE, EADT Front Page HEADLINES, 16 February 2001

Linn Barringer comment:
This is probably the best news I've reported on this exhausting saga, since I started a page on RAF Bentwaters, back in 1995. 

xThe Suffolk farming family of Kemball has bought 900 acres - most of the technical side of the former RAF Bentwaters air base, including the runway.  And they will keep the Bentwaters name alive by naming their new company BENTWATERS PARKS LIMITED.

The Kemball family live at nearby Wantisden and revealed their plans exclusively to the EADT after securing the site last Wednesday.  The Kemballs' priorities will be farming and restoring the land to nature but they are also planning leisure uses to create new jobs in the area.

The Kemballs are an award-winning farmers, with a proven track record in farming and conservation, who own Wantisden Hall Farms

  • Dale Farm

  • Wantisden Hall

  • Valley Farm

with more than 2000 acres - and Staverton Park and adjacent lakes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest with possibly the largest collection of ancient oaks in Europe.

The Kemballs are also responsible for the annual Wantisden "Power of the Past" event. You can buy a video (unfortunately only available in PAL) of the Wantisden event from Old Pond Publishing.

Bentwaters Parks are evaluating opportunities for leisure; equestrianism, land sailing, education and recreation.  They are considering the creation of wildlife habitats including restoration of heath and grassland, tree planting and structural planting, coupled with environmental management and the possible establishment of a small park of holiday log cabins.

They will continue to remove some aggregate and demolish buildings but removal of the runway will not be a priority as they see the runway as hard standing, suitable for other uses.

The headquarters will be set up in the control tower and there is a long-term aim to turn the upper room into a museum dedicated to the history of Bentwaters.

The family emphasised that they have not bought the airfield with the aim of expanding their Debach Enterprises distribution company.

John Kemball said he was relishing the challenge; We are local owners of the site who have always lived and worked alongside Bentwaters and now we wish to bring the site forward into the 21st Century."


Bentwaters for Sale again?

Richard Smith, EXCLUSIVE, EADT Front Page HEADLINES, 7 February 2001

In 2000, Anglian Water bought the construction and asset management group Morrison.  Today, Morrison are poised to buy Bentwaters for £10 million.  The present owner, Seebrook Holdings Ltd., has been looking for a buyer since the government declared that it would now allow a new airport on the site.

Greg Vincent, for Seebrook, said "They have spent so much time and resources here... with a view to buying the whole site."  Mr. Vincent said there was no plan for flying to return, although there could be a few plans associated with businesses.


Rockford Marks moving to Bentwaters?

Richard Smith, EADT 7 February 2001

The deal to bring the Rockford Marks group from Woodbridge to the Mission Support building could be completed today.  The 52,000 sq. ft. building has been provisionally sold for £1.3m.

The move would allow the electronics assembly business to double its workforce.


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.