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RAF expansion has not brought growth to Carterton
THE huge expansion of RAF Brize Norton in the last year has not yet had the expected impact on jobs, schools and shops.
But, on the first anniversary of RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire closing and troops moving to the Carterton airbase, community leaders are hopeful the next 12 months will bring more of a boost.
Following the closure, RAF Brize Norton is now the RAF’s largest airbase and next month the last of the expected 2,600 service personnel will arrive.
But homes for the troops and their families have still not been built in Carterton, and many have been housed in rented accommodation as far away as Faringdon, Fairford and Shrivenham. With fewer families living in Carterton than expected, school numbers have not increased, businesses have not seen the expected boost and low-income families are struggling to get into the rental market.
Carterton deputy mayor Lynne Little said: “We were expecting more children and families, but it is still early days.
“I am confident in another 12 months we will see some growth.”
In the last year, RAF Brize Norton has become the new home of the Hercules fleet and, by 2016, 14 Voyager aircraft will also be based there – taking over from the 50-year-old VC10s.
The final units from Tactical Medical Wing are due to move from RAF Lyneham next month, once building work to create their new home at RAF Brize Norton is complete.
But the Ministry of Defence has scaled down plans to build 780 new homes in the centre of Carterton to accommodate military families and now only plans to build 200.
This, along with families taking up rented accommodation outside Carterton, has meant initial estimates of a multi-million pound boost to Oxfordshire’s economy – based on a Wiltshire Council and North Wiltshire Economic Partnership estimate that RAF Lyneham closing would cost North Wiltshire £52m a year – have not yet materialised.
Phil Scott, chairman of Carterton Chamber of Trade, said: “The base is very busy and there are a lot more aircraft flying around, but the personal are commuting. They are not living here so they are not spending here. But the economic boost is starting to happen and the big retailers are starting to take an interest in Carterton, so the future is bright.”
Aldi opened a store in Alvescot Road earlier this year and Morrisons applied for planning permission to build a store off Black Bourton Road last month.
The lack of new military housing in Carterton has also had an impact on schools, which receive Government cash based on pupil numbers.
Niall McWilliams, headteacher of Carterton Community College, said: “We continue to struggle financially.
“Until they build accommodation our numbers will not go up.”
No one from RAF Brize Norton was available to comment.