The announcement of the Closure of RAF Halton came as a big shock to lots of people in the area. Although the site closure had been threatened numerous times over the years it appeared to escape the chop in the past as the cost of disposing of the site outweighed the benefits gained. So what happened this time? Well there were three other factors at work – firstly the increased security threat from ISIL and their collaborators did not help a site which was difficult to make secure. Secondly the idea that officers and other ranks basic training should be undertaken at the same location to capture synergies gained traction with decision makers. Thirdly the cost of maintaining the site infrastructure at Halton was growing as the site aged.
So the announced closure of the site by 2022 will happen, unless there is an unforeseen event or discovery. What could that be? I think there are two items which may cause the MOD to pause for thought. Firstly the cost of disposing of Halton House could be prohibitive due to the cost of bringing it back up to standard and then the dowry necessary if someone like the National Trust are going to take ownership of it. Secondly in vacating the site the MOD will have to clean up the site from chemical and other contaminates which may be an expensive exercise. We know there is asbestos contamination in some bits of the site. Whether these are enough to cause second thoughts we shall see.
The Parish Council have adopted the position of looking at the closure and trying to get the best solution for this community and this parish. There is no master plan yet, timing depends on when the new facilities are available at Cranwell. Equally no decisions have been taken yet about disposal of key bits of land in the parish. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (part of the MOD) and AVDC are the key players in putting this together. In order to influence them the Parish Council has been working with David Lidington our MP and Steve Bowles our District Council representative on AVDC. They have been very supportive and a meeting with the Minister of State for Defence has been scheduled. This will be an opportunity for us to express our views on how the land should be disposed of in a way which protects our environment as much as possible, but recognises there will be new houses being built in Halton.
We will update parishioners through the Parish magazine, however we thought it would be more immediate if we emailed a newsletter about the closure and other items once a month.
If you are interested in receiving a newsletter please email Fiona Lippman the Parish Clerk with your email address. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chairman, Halton Parish Council