RAF Coltishall: Lib Dems say council 'has no business plan'

RAF Coltishall (Photo: Mike Page) Local residents have objected to the council's bid for RAF Coltishall

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A multi-million pound council bid to buy a former RAF base in Norfolk "has no business plan", Liberal Democrats have said.

Norfolk County Council wants to develop the 600-acre (242.8 hectare) former RAF Coltishall site, north of Norwich.

Lib Dem councillors said further scrutiny was needed on the plans, which include housing and business units.

But the Conservative authority said it would be "premature" to produce a detailed business case.

Last Monday senior councillors agreed to bid for the land being sold by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Other possible uses for the site, which would be developed using the council's £10m infrastructure fund, include a dementia care unit, museum and fuel storage facility, it said.

The MoJ put the remainder of the former base up for sale last year after it opened a sex offenders prison, HMP Bure, on the site in 2009. RAF Coltishall closed in 2006.

'Declare plans'

Although the council is the MoJ's "preferred bidder" for the site, the Hans House Group of Companies has also made a move to buy the land.

Liberal Democrat group leader Mike Brindle said: "It baffles me that the council can proceed with what is a substantial investment with no business plan.

"While we are fully supportive of the concept of redeveloping the former RAF Coltishall site, we know there are private bidders who have consulted with local residents as to their plans for the site.

"We do not think it is too much of the council to do the same and declare their plans before they proceed with spending a large amount of Norfolk taxpayers' money."

Workers' union Unison said it supported the call for scrutiny, and questioned whether the council should be bidding for the land when a private firm was interested.

Cliff Jordan, the council's Conservative cabinet member for efficiency, said: "All we have done so far is set out a high level outline for possible uses for the site and as we have said, we want to hear people's views on those and any others through the proposed new liaison group.

"We have made no secret of our intentions. It would have been premature to produce a detailed business case for the entire site prior to any discussions with interested parties taking place."

The plans will be discussed by the council's scrutiny committee on 26 June.

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