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Bentwaters: Campaigners hit back in row over Spitfire flying at former air base

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:13 23 June 2014

Archant

Campaigners fighting proposals to increase flying at a former military air base say they are not opposed to an historic Spitfire using the runway.

The Bentwaters Campaign Group (BCG) says it is trying to promote a “sensible and rational” debate about the future of flying from the site and its potential impact on the coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Pilot Carolyn Grace, whose company Air Leasing Ltd operates the Grace Spitfire ML407, withdrew from a display at the weekend’s Rendlesham Show, saying her decision was “a direct result” of the activities of the BCG.

A BCG spokesman strongly refuted the suggestion, saying Mrs Grace’s decision was fuelling unwarranted resentment against the campaign group.

He said: “The decision to withdraw from the event was Mrs Grace’s alone.

“Any suggestion that BCG is involved in it is wrong. The BCG did not make any comment about the event. It didn’t contact Suffolk Coastal District Council about it, and the district council did not, to our knowledge, say she could not fly either.”

The group says its critics have “mischievously suggested” that it is opposed to flying by the Spitfire from Bentwaters.

The spokesman said: “Bentwaters played a vital part in our war effort. So did the Spitfire.

“It is appropriate that this iconic aircraft should continue to fly from there. But under regulations covering deferred development rights, flying (or other activities) are allowed from Bentwaters 28 days a year.

“Based on the number of times the Spitfire has flown in recent seasons, this would seem entirely adequate for this heritage need.

“Many individuals have objected to proposals for flying by more aircraft at Bentwaters. That is the point.”

Opponents believe extra flying will destroy the tranquility of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, harm wildlife, and ruin one of the main reasons people visit the Suffolk Coastal area.

Bentwaters Parks says its blueprint for the future of the former 940-acre Cold War base seeks to regularise the activities already taking place.

It is seeking consent for the use of nearly 200 buildings as well as 960 air movements a year, which would include an air show, the flying of heritage planes and occasional business flights. It has denied that it is attempting to create a civil airport.

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