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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
RAF Sealand set to close
RAF Sealand
The closure of RAF Sealand is the MoD's preferred option
An RAF base in north Wales faces closure with the loss of around 130 jobs as part of a Ministry of Defence review.

Under the review, RAF Sealand in Flintshire, would close with its units moving to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

The MoD said the reshuffle is a way of improving military capability and giving value for money to the taxpayer.

RAF Sealand employs 135 civilian workers, with around 142 RAF military personnel also on site.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram announced the plans on Friday in the House of Commons as part of a review of RAF operations around the UK.

'Cause for concern'

He said that, subject to trade union consultation, he wanted to accept an option which would see units based at Sealand, Brize Norton, Boulmer and Neatishead move to Scampton.

This option would see the closure of RAF Sealand, ending a 90-year association between the RAF and the area.

Originally a civil airfield, Sealand was taken over in 1916, and was used for training and later, maintenance.

Sealand is currently used as an communications support base for RAF operations around the world.

If the closure plan is implemented, RAF Sealand would close in April 2006.

The announcement does not affect the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (Dara) operation, which is adjacent to the RAF Sealand site.

Mr Ingram told the Commons: "I understand that this news will be a cause for concern for those who work at the affected stations and those who have campaigned for the maintenance of the status quo.

'Preferred option'

"However, I am sure that all concerned will recognise that we must locate our units in the best place for them to meet the operational demands placed upon them and at the same time make the best use of defence resources.

"I will make my decision on the option to accept once I have received a formal response from the trade unions.

"I am making an announcement now on my preferred option because I am very aware of the level of interest in this review, not least amongst the personnel likely to be affected."

Although RAF Sealand is threatened with closure, the government may consider keeping on some civilian staff until the equipment they service goes out of use in 2009.

Meanwhile, a 30-day review period is set to begin with trade union involvement, before a formal announcement is made in June.

'Strong representations'

The Transport and General Workers Union said the announcement would have a "big impact" on its members and told ministers to expect "strong representations" during the consultation process.

"These cuts will change the lives of many of our members who are affected as well as the character of many local areas," said Peter Allenson, T&G national secretary for public services.

"We do not accept the minister's announcement as a done deal on closure.

"We see it instead as the start of a consultation process."

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