Gainsborough MP says RAF Scampton must stay open

Sir Edward Leigh MP
Sir Edward Leigh MP

I recently I held a debate on the future of RAF Scampton in the House of Commons, writes Sir Edward Leigh MP.

There are serious concerns over the future of the base, which is the home of the Red Arrows.

I firmly believe that Scampton has great potential to be maintained as part of the UK’s defence infrastructure and that closing the base – which has already happened once and been undone – is not a good idea.

There are aspects more or less unique to Scampton that make it exceptionally useful as the home of the Red Arrows

The last time Scampton was shut and the Red Arrows moved it was realised relatively quickly that the logistical implications for the team made for a pretty poor outcome.

I certainly want to keep the Red Arrows here in Lincolnshire and even more so at Scampton.

But that’s not the only reason to keep the base open.

Aside from the important historical legacy of the base which must be preserved, the closure will have an impact on local communities and businesses that needs to be fully understood and tackled.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) certainly has lessons to be learned from how it has mishandled previous cases of disposing of property and estates, and these need to be carefully studied in order to avoid future problems if Scampton is shut.

In my debate I made the case for Scampton as forcefully as I could, and the minister, Tobias Ellwood, was very generous in taking numerous interventions from similarly concerned MPs when giving his response to my remarks.

Unfortunately this meant there were a seriesof concerns which I raised which he did not have the parliamentary time to tackle.

As such, I wrote to him seeking further information and have been obliged that he has responded.

Mr Ellwood confirmed that the MOD will work with all the relevant agencies and local communities to manage the local impact of their decisions.

The MOD has also committed to honouring the historical significance of the site and to working with the local authority and new owners to deliver a long-term sustainable solution for preserving this important piece of Lincolnshire’s – and the country’s – aviation history.

I’ve also often heard that when the runway at Scampton was lengthened decades ago, requiring the A15 on the course of the old Roman road to be re-routed, the MOD undertook to undo this action if the base was shut.

It turns out this is an urban (or, in Lincolnshire’s case, rural) legend.

There are no records to indicate that any such undertaking was given and consequentially the MOD has no plans to re-align the A15 back to its ancient route.

I did raise the possibility of opening the site up to general aviation and the minister confirmed that was a possibility which new owners may take into consideration.

At any rate, I will continue to keep a close eye on proceedings.

And I will insist on a well-planned and thoughtfully considered transition if the base really must shut.