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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
East: RAF Coltishall closure
Jayne Evans
Politics Show East

RAF Jaguars in formation
RAF Jaguar's last flypast in Norfolk

On Wednesday 28 March 2006 a dozen Jaguars took off from RAF Coltishall in Norfolk never to return.

The flypast over the Norfolk countryside and Norwich Cathedral was part of an official goodbye to the county that has been the Jaguar's home since the 1970s.

The Jaguar's days are numbered as the aircraft is to be replaced by the new Typhoon.

RAF Coltishall's days are also numbered. The military is pulling out and no one living near the Norfolk base knows what the future holds.

By the end of 2006 a huge piece of rural Norfolk, some 750 acres, will be up for sale.

The question is who will buy it, what will they use it for and what impact will future developments have on the area?

Coltishall's neighbours, local councillors and MPs are looking at the fate of other communities situated near military bases and wondering if the same lies in store for them.

RAF Jaguars on runway
RAF Coltishall to be abandoned?

RAF West Raynham in Norfolk has been empty for 11 years.

RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire has been mothballed since 1993 and is due to be sold off in 2008.

And RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk languished for many years before it was sold off in 2001.

At Coltishall hundreds of civilian jobs have flown away with the Jaguars, as has an estimated 20m from the local economy.

The manager of the local Londis supermarket is expecting up to a 10% drop in business.

The base has supported four car dealerships but it is doubtful they will all survive without their Coltishall customers.

A taskforce has been set up to formulate a plan for the future of the Coltishall site.

This includes The East of England Development Agency (EEDA), county and district councils, the Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, Keith Simpson, and the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb.

However, all is not smooth and affable on this task force.

Norman Lamb is an outspoken critic of EEDA and says the Association is "an unaccountable quango out of touch with the people it is supposed to represent."

In response EEDA says it is committed to the project which it labels as "a priority".

However these public disagreements are likely to erode the confidence of local people at a time when their lives and business are undergoing great economic change.

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