dark clouds over scampton

THE OPPORTUNITY of redevelopment could yet provide a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over the area's only remaining RAF base.

Although there is no immediate suggestion of closure, the Ministry of Defence’s decision to relocate the Red Arrows from Scampton to RAF Waddington plunges the long-term future of the airbase into doubt.

After the Reds leave in July 2011 they will continue to use the airspace above local villages for practice, but the long-term effects of the move on the economy and social well-being of local communities may not be known for several years.

The MoD insists no decision has been made over closure of the base, saying the runway may still be needed for training craft to land and that a review is ongoing.

But West Lindsey District Council leader Bernard Theobald fears it is an inevitable conclusion. If so, he reckons it would be ripe for development as a sports academy.

“I can’t see it remaining operational in the long-term and given the MoD’s history in these matters it is essential that we, as the local planning authority, get involved early on.

“Whilst we would sooner see the base remain open, it does present a great opportunity. Rather than break it up into component parts as at Binbrook and Hemswell and put it out of local control, or sell it off for housing, there is potential for something more creative,” he said.

“A sports academy would work well there; given the location, its existing infrastructure, hangars and facilities.”

New district council chairman and local member Peter Heath – a former squadron leader who was based at Scampton during his service – wonders if it might become an army garrison.

He thinks that the MoD will determine a runway upgrade too expensive and base a closure decision on finances. “I would be very much against it being filled up with housing and think it needs something more visionary.”

The council is disappointed the Reds are leaving the district, although pleased they will continue to train locally. But it recognises that Scampton’s future was ‘always in question’ after the Air Combat Service Support Unit was based at Leeming instead because of costs.

There are meteorological and air control units at Scampton in addition to the Red Arrows’ 100 service personnel and two civilians.

l What would you like to see happen at RAF Scampton after the Red Arrows fly south in 2011? Email your thoughts to jason.hippisley@jpress.co.uk