Woodbridge to get 600 soldiers

THE Army is on the march with a £100m budget and the creation of hundreds of jobs as soldiers prepare to bring Woodbridge Airfield into the 21st century.

THE Army is on the march with a £100m budget and the creation of hundreds of jobs as soldiers prepare to bring Woodbridge Airfield into the 21st century.

The Ministry of Defence will submit detailed plans covering a wide range of issues next month detailing the future of the airfield four miles east of the town.

The project team hopes work will start on the airfield in January with the aim of moving 23 Engineer Regiment in 2006. Sports facilities will be opened for the public and there will be extra children for Sandlings primary school which will secure its future.

More than 1,000 people will live at the former American air base including 600 soldiers and they will bring in 250 vehicles. A 64-hectare site close to the airfield will be developed as a self-contained campus where the soldiers will live and work.

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There will be a multi-million pound economic boost for the Woodbridge area with many jobs for civilians and increased spending in shops. The Army said it was delighted to be moving in. Lieut Col Chris Tickell, regiment commander, said: ''The move into Woodbridge is seen as a hugely, hugely positive and good move. I am convinced that this will be good for the regiment.''

It is 10 years since the American Air Force left the base and since then the airfield has been used for helicopter training by the Army Air Corps based at Wattisham and military exercises.

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Many buildings will be demolished and new one, two and three storey buildings will be erected. But the Army stressed that it wanted to build a sympathetically designed campus and to retain the natural landscape.

The development will be zoned around existing pockets of landscaping with paths linking all the facilities to provide ''a place of living, leading, learning and leisure.''

The Royal Engineers will provide engineer support for 16 Air Assault Brigade following the Strategic Defence Review. The Brigade headquarters are in Colchester and Col Tony Barton, Colchester garrison commander, said Woodbridge was chosen because it was empty.

There are 399 hectares at Woodbridge Airfield and just two military personnel on duty there. Col Barton said: ''Woodbridge was too good an opportunity to resist and we will breathe life into the community.''

David Fox, Sandlings headteacher, said yesterday: ''This is amazing news and we will look forward to hearing more from the MoD in conjunction with the local education authority so that appropriate plans can be made for this exciting time at the base.''

The school has capacity for 270 pupils but the roll has fallen to 120 children following the move of personnel to new homes at Hadleigh and Ipswich.

The Army made a presentation to Suffolk Coastal District Council about the project. It does not require planning permission but councillors will be asked for their views.

Nigel Barratt, Woodbridge county councillor, said: ''We greatly welcome the return of the military which will be of great benefit to Sutton, Woodbridge and the surrounding areas.

''But obviously there are areas of concern including traffic implications around Melton crossroads and the A12 roundabouts. I hope they are solvable to the benefit of the local community.''


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