VIDEO: Multi-million pound tourist attraction could be created at RAF Scampton
A multi-million pound tourist attraction could be created at RAF Scampton – generating hundreds of jobs and helping to secure the Red Arrows' long-term future.
Council bosses want to transform the base into the UK's top aviation heritage centre.
The site would draw in thousands of visitors from around the world and have major knock-on effects for the county's economy.
Regular air shows, a museum, exhibitions, a hotel and educational facilities could all be part of the project. The facility could be open within five years, with construction beginning inside three. Tens of millions of pounds would be spent.
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Tony McArdle, chief executive of Lincolnshire County Council, said: "We've believed in this vision for a while – now it's time to see what it would actually look like. It's a very ambitious plan for a huge, unique, national attraction, with huge economic benefits for Lincolnshire."
The project would also keep the base fully operational – securing the livelihoods of those working there. The county council has launched a "feasibility study", asking experts to develop the idea further.
Once this process is completed in September and there are grounds to move forward, concepts will be chosen and more detailed plansdrawn up.
The news comes after years of speculation on the future of the Red Arrows and RAF Scampton – the home of the famous 617 Squadron. Many fear the base could be closed if the display team was axed.
It also comes in the year that the RAF celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid. Mr McArdle said: "We know the Red Arrows have got a lease of life until probably the end of the decade, at which point closing Scampton will be back on the agenda again.
"Rather than close it, we think there's a real opportunity to make Scampton the focus of all the aviation heritage centres in the county."
According to the council, around half of the base is unused, including two giant hangers. These buildings, including some that have become dilapidated, could be refurbished to house exhibits and other parts of the attraction.
Mr McArdle explained the base "continues to run itself down" but said income from the attraction could help it "pay for itself".
Eddie Poll, deputy leader and executive councillor for economic development at Lincolnshire County Council, said: "If we can enable the RAF to stay there, with more economic activity on the site, making it better for them and better for us, then it could be an even bigger boost to the local economy than if we just try to do something with the aviation heritage site."
The development would add to the existing museum on the site and also help to promote the other 50 aviation heritage sites across Lincolnshire.
Over the past year, the council has been speaking with bodies including the Ministry of Defence, RAF and Imperial War Museum about the idea.
Bosses were able to move forward after receiving approval from the then-Minister of State for Armed Forces, Nick Harvey, to speak with the RAF.
VIDEOS FROM SCAMPTON