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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Staff prepare for base job losses
Llanbedr plane
The airbase has been operating for half a century
Redundancy notices have been sent to 144 staff at an air base in north Wales.

The aircraft testing site, at Llanbedr, has been operating for 50 years but is now likely to close.

Staff at the base have specialised in testing and evaluating pilotless aircraft.

Their recent work has involved developing the Jindivik fleet of unmanned aircraft which is being taken out of service after 38 years.

I'm always hopeful, until the last day I'm always crossing my fingers and hoping that something from somewhere will come
Evie Morgan Jones, councillor

It is being replaced by a modern unmanned target system, being flown from Aberporth.

The Ministry of Defence own the site and Qinetiq, a science and technology research organisation, are the operators.

But its future may take another twist with interest being shown by the RAF.

A spokeswoman for Ministry of Defence Estates said: "A decision on its future rests with the RAF who have made a bid to use it in connection with their contract to train Indian Air Force pilots."

Defence Estates, which is responsible for the properties and lands owned by the MoD, said a decision is awaited.

But if Llanbedr's closure goes ahead, some people in the area have said they are worried about the effects on Llanbedr.

Business worries

Village shopkeeper Diana Gregory said: "We will lose custom, people are having to move away for the jobs or not have a job.

"It will make a difference to all the businesses - not just ours," she added.

There are also concerns that it may be difficult to bring new jobs to the area.

Gwynedd county councillor, Evie Morgan Jones, said: "From a national point of view, people think Llanbedr is the back of beyond, it is the back of beyond - I don't blame them for that.

Llanbedr sign
The announcement first came in July 2002

"I'm always hopeful, until the last day I'm always crossing my fingers and hoping that something from somewhere will come."

The area's assembly member Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas added: "Now clearly is the time for us to look at new plans for the site and therefore alternative uses have to be looked for.

"The Welsh Development Agency is the main player along with local authority in trying to look at alternative forms of investment," he added.

A Qinetiq spokeswoman said it was planned that operations will cease on 31 October with a formal handover of the site is set for 11 February, 2005.

She said Qinetiq had appointed a consultancy firm to help staff find alternative jobs both within the company and externally.

Cllr Dafydd Iwan, who leads on development at Gwynedd Council, said the authority was "greatly saddened" at the job losses.

"We have been aware of the situation for some time, and we have been in active discussions with our partners and local people.

"Our priority now is to continue to work closely with other agenices to advise and assist those who have lost their jobs to find alternative employment."


SEE ALSO:
Wales gets second air ambulance
01 Jul 03  |  North West Wales
Summer trials for air ambulance
30 May 03  |  North West Wales
After the MoD leaves town
22 Jul 04  |  UK
Jobs hope for military planes
07 Jul 04  |  Wales


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