What will become of RAF Scampton and the Red Arrows?

To some, the announcement that the home of the Red Arrows RAF Scampton would be sold came as a shock. To others, the loss of the historical but costly airbase was an inevitable, while dreaded, move.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed on Tuesday, July 25 that the base north of Lincoln, home to 600 members of staff, would be sold off in a mission to shave £3 billion from the RAF estates budget by 2040. It’s one of 91 sites to be scratched off the books.

The airbase, which has housed the Red Arrows since 2000 and 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission in WWII, has been a beacon for Lincolnshire and Lincoln in particular since its foundations in 1916.

It’s also currently home of No1 Air Control Centre and the Mobile Meteorological Unit.

On many lips were questions over what the future holds for the Reds and whether they would sadly disappear from the county skylines.

Would another Lincolnshire base like Cranwell be suitable? 

Some have set up social media groups and petitions in an effort to save the site from closure, and many leaders have expressed disappointment and sadness at the news. 

Meanwhile, the local district council which covers Scampton is already hinting at the possibility of housing and businesses opportunities on the RAF base.

Keeping the Reds local?

Some have suggested that RAF Cranwell, which has foundations as a Royal Navy Training Establishment since 1916 and is home to a broard range of training and recruitment operations, could be the ideal location for the Red Arrows.

For now however, this is just speculation alongside other location suggestions like RAF Waddington.

Some have gone so far as to suggest the Red Arrows will also be scrapped alongside the sale of the base.

An RAF spokesperson at the MOD told The Lincolnite: “No decision has been made on the location and we will be continuing discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority and once something comes to fruition an announcement will be made.”

The Leaders

Read the reactions from Lincolnshire councillors and leaders

Politicians, business people and faith leaders all gave reactions echoing a sense of loss at the news.

Catch up with statements issued in full by taking a look over The Lincolnite’s liveblog. 

Lincoln MP Karen Lee: “Nobody saw fit to inform me as a local MP”, “Lincoln is losing its Red Arrows and 600 people are at risk of losing their jobs. I would once again remind the government that cuts have consequences.”

Lincolnshire Showground CEO Jayne Southall: “We’ve been very grateful to have [the Red Arrows] as our neighbours”, “we feel that its closure would be a huge loss for tourism, aviation heritage, the local economy and Lincolnshire’s undeniable association with the RAF.”

Lincolnshire County Council Executive Councillor for Economy and Place Colin Davie: “I think [the MOD] will possibly regret their decision to sell the base because I think it’s based on selling off land for housing.”

Bishop of Grantham the Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain: “The church is willing to work with other stakeholders to ensure that there are some positives in what the future holds for a site with such history.”

Sir Edward Leigh, MP: “I will work to persuade the ministry that the base can still retain an RAF function in the future. Should that not be possible perhaps there are civilian uses for the base.”

PCC Marc Jones: “Lincolnshire losing the Red Arrows and potentially the priceless heritage of Dambusters and Guy Gibson is a serious a blow as Lincoln losing the Cathedral.”

Anger and petitions

Scores of local people were dismayed at the decision, calling on others to stand with them to fight the sale. “Stand up and be counted”, was the word of the people on Lincoln High Street.

Some set up petitions and a Facebook page has been created to bolster the campaign and make protests known. 

Page admins posted: “We must fight on like our brave airmen did. They saved out country and we will save RAF Scampton and the Reds.

“We are awaiting the official petition to be approved and to go live so that we can get signatures.”

‘Save our history’

The Air Heritage Manager, Dave Harrigan, told The Lincolnite: “Lincolnshire is the home of aviation. We are renowned for that nationally and internationally.

“RAF Scampton is at the heart of people, it’s woven into the fabric of the people of Lincolnshire.

“The news wasn’t a complete shock but it still came as quite a disappointment to think that we are going to lose such a great piece of the RAF heritage.”

IBCC Director Nicky Barr. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Director at the International Bomber Command Centre Nicky Barr believes the news to sell RAF Scampton is “absolutely devastating”.

She said: “The news is obviously devastating. Scampton has played a part of both the City and County life for over 100 years and it will undoubtedly impact on the local economy.

“It will impact on our heritage. They have a fascinating collection of artefacts and documents relating to the Dams raid and 617 Sqn as well as other Squadrons who were based there. The collection may well have to be split up and that would be an enormous shame.”