Army to take over RAF Leeming????

F-35 decision dooms RAF Leeming
Simon McGee
Political Editor

A YORKSHIRE RAF base is set to close after failing to become the host for a future generation of RAF fighter planes, sparking concerns about "huge knock-on effects" for the local economy.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram announced yesterday that he could not guarantee the future of RAF Leeming, near Northallerton, once the base's current Tornados are phased out – although he signalled other roles were being considered.

Leeming had been one of five air military airports nationally being considered for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which is still in development but, ultimately, a Scottish base was named.

The MoD said the noise impact would be disproportionate for residents in nearby towns and villages including Bedale and Aiskew where local people had expressed fears about the new aircraft.

Last night politicians in the county said there was a good chance the facility could be given over to the Army garrison at Catterick, securing vital cash for the local economy and perhaps even safeguarding the 100 or so local jobs at the base, currently home to 1,800 military and civilian personal.

MP Anne McIntosh said: "It's effectively the end of RAF Leeming.

"And there's no guarantee whatsoever that they'll find another use for the airbase.

"We need to know sooner rather than later what's really happening, to work out the implications for the local economy."

North Yorkshire County Council had stated that it recognised the importance of Leeming to the local economy but had "serious reservations" about its suitability.

Replying to a question by the Tory defence spokesman Julian Lewis about RAF Leeming, Mr Ingram said: "There are a number of work things in place that could have a very beneficial outcome for Leeming, but they're not at a mature level yet.

"We'll just have to wait and see how they play out."

North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell was hopeful last night that Leeming would still have a military future.

"An announcement will be made in Catterick soon that may well see the Army taking the base over," he said.

"We guessed that the sound problem for the sheer number of people living nearby would make it difficult for the new plane to be based there, but we still want it to be kept as an MoD base."

At a press conference at RAF Lossiemouth, Group Captain Russ Torbet, Station Commander at RAF Lossiemouth and Group Captain Chris Birks, Station Commander at RAF Kinloss, said the announcement secured the future of both bases for the next 30 years.

Group Captain Torbet said: "This is excellent news for the station and the local community and will ensure an RAF presence for many years to come."

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