A third proposal for airfield development had been released in this last week. The first two, RAF Downham Market and RAF West Raynham have been highlighted in previous posts. The third, is possibly the most significant so far and one that like RAF West Raynham, sets a standard by which future developments could proceed. This site is that of RAF Coltishall.
RAF Coltishall – The Future
RAF Coltishall was home to around 56 RAF Squadrons throughout its life, these included the Jaguars of 6, 41 and 54 Squadrons along with a wide range of aircraft from both the Second World War, Cold War era and the Gulf War. It is a large site that accommodated around 1,500 people at its height, with four hangars, a single runway and both extensive accommodation and technical sites.
Vacated by the RAF in 2006, it has been the subject of a public consultation since 2013. Questions were asked about the possible future use of the site which included light aviation with air displays, a change to affordable housing, industrial use and site redevelopment. Norfolk County Council took the future of the site very seriously, knowing how much it meant to both the local people of Norfolk and Britain’s aviation heritage. The results of this consultation have now been released and can be accessed through the link at the base of the page.
As with West Raynham, a site like Coltishall, that is complete, offers a unique opportunity to develop the buildings and structures whilst retaining and highlighting the heritage value that it represents. The buildings and infrastructure are ideal for a small self-contained ‘village’ that encourages links with both the local and wider community as a whole.
Norfolk County Council have recognised the importance of this site in particular, and as a result, much of it is now listed as ‘ancient monuments’ or locally listed buildings. These include: the World War 2 dispersals, Cold War blast walls, hangars, tower and communal buildings. It survives today in its entirety, primarily because the entire airfield is designated a Conservation Area by Norfolk County Council. This status gives protection against some of the more virile development and ensures in part, the preservation of the site for future generations.
Norfolk County Council have now released their proposed plans for the site, which include a harmonic development of both the main technical and accommodation areas utilising the buildings in situ where they can.
These plans may mean the sad loss of the main runway and grassed areas, probably both being returned to agriculture or open green space. It would also suggest a loss of much of the perimeter track as well. However, their plans do include creating a public heritage trail, viewing platform and sign-age to promote and explain the uses of Coltishall, as it was throughout its aviation life. There are also suggestion of ‘interpretations’ of both cold war and second world war aircraft in their respective pens.
Just this week however, a private enterprise (led by a cycle shop owner) put forward a proposal to use the three-mile perimeter track as a cycle track for recreational and competition cycling opportunities. Further proposals include a £300,000 development of the former operations room into a cafe and cycle workshop. Landscaping would also be included making it a hub for recreational activities linked by cycles paths to Norwich, Hoveton and Aylsham.
Financial support has not yet been granted for this particular part of the proposal, but it is hoped that the site will be open mid 2016.
Norfolk County Council are considering the plans in line with their own heritage and development ideas. If it all goes ahead, then once developed, RAF Coltishall is likely to be the best preserved airfield in the UK that has not only been developed but opened to the public. Furthermore, if these proposals are to come to fruition, it could become a model for future development of Britain’s old wartime relics.
Details of the Council’s proposal can be found here.
The overall plan can be found here.
RAF Coltishall appears in Trail 7.