A delegation of key businesses, organisations and politicians from Lincolnshire travelled to London on Tuesday, June 4, to make the case for retaining the Red Arrows in the county after the planned closure of RAF Scampton by 2022.
Lord Cormack and Lincoln MP Karen Lee hosted the afternoon tea reception at the House of Lords, where Lincolnshire MPs, Lords and Baronesses heard impassioned speeches about the economic and social contributions the Red Arrows bring to Lincoln and the wider region, and how it is essential a new home is found for them within the county.
As the MoD plans to close RAF Scampton, the home of the Red Arrows, by 2022, three possible locations have been shortlisted as potential new bases for for team. RAF Waddington, just south of Lincoln, is one of them, as well as RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Wittering near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.
Each of the three possible new homes for the Reds and Blues (the engineering team behind the Red Arrows) presents its challenges and opportunities, so the Lincolnshire delegation’s aim was to make the best possible case to retain the iconic aerobatic team in the county.
Businesses and organisations made their own travel arrangements to London in an effort to make the best possible case for the Red Arrows to remain in Lincolnshire.
Lord Cormack said: “For centuries Lincoln Cathedral has been known throughout the world as one of the greatest buildings in Christendom. For the last few decades the Red Arrows have been known throughout the world as a symbol of the United Kingdom. We in Lincolnshire, renowned as the airfield county which helped save our country in the last war, are immensely proud of them.
“We deeply regret the planned closure of Scampton, perhaps the most iconic of all Lincolnshire’s Bomber Command bases. But deep disappointment would be piled upon regret if we were to lose the Red Arrows from Lincolnshire’s skies.”
Lydia Rusling, CEO of Visit Lincoln, said: “As the public face of the RAF, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team and the distinctive Hawk jets are proudly synonymous with Lincolnshire skies. The Red Arrows act as ambassadors for the United Kingdom, but for more than 30 years have been part of our county’s identity and continually showcased through many successful marketing campaigns, highlighting Lincolnshire as a great place to visit, live, work, invest and learn.
“Tourism is a significant sector for Greater Lincolnshire and contributes over £2 billion to our economy and supports 39,000 jobs. It is Lincolnshire’s association with the Royal Air Force, often symbolised by the Red Arrows, which attracts people from all over the world.”
A petition by Visit Lincoln and The Lincolnite to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire passed the 10,000 signatures milestone the day before the visit, meaning an official government response to the cause is now due. You can still sign the petition here.
James Pinchbeck, Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, said: “The team are superb ambassadors for the county, and wherever they go in the world they raise the profile of Lincolnshire and the Midlands. A visit to, or a flypast by the Reds is often key to developing inward investment and trade deals for the growing number of businesses looking for overseas trade deals and export, along with those looking to locate in the region.
“In particular, their presence has played a significant part in the investment messages and growth of the aviation, aeronautical and defence sector in the area. Many key defence sector companies are based in the county including AAR, Raytheon, Leonardo, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Babcock and Park Air Systems. MMB Minebea in Lincoln is also part of the Red Arrows supply chain, making the bearings for the Hawk jet.
“The Reds too are symbolic of the county’s engineering prowess old and new, which today includes not only multinationals such as Siemens, Dynex, Fenner Dawson and Bifrangi, but many new and long established pioneering and innovative businesses.”
Julian Free, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, said: “The Red Arrows are the tip of the inspiration spear. Who seeing them fly past Lincoln Cathedral in perfect close formation does not dream of a life as a Red Arrows pilot? The RAF understands this and uses them to great effect to draw people in. They are the spark that ignites people’s imagination and interest in aviation and aerospace.
“In Lincolnshire the Red Arrows provide that spark, that special something, which ignites people’s interest in technology. Lincolnshire must close the technical skills gap – it is significantly behind the national position. The University of Lincoln has increased its STEM provision, opening seven new schools in the College of Science over the past seven years.
“With the county’s further education colleges and several of its most successful technology companies, it has led a successful bid for one of the first Institutes of Technology. With £170 million of capital funding from the government, the institute will specialise in delivering higher-level technical skills to help close skills gaps and improve productivity.
“This activity is making a difference. It is raising individuals’ aspiration and increasing business opportunities. This is not limited to aerospace, as once hooked, the career possibilities are boundless. It is the initial spark that is required to draw people into technical careers and Lincolnshire, perhaps more than any other county, needs the Red Arrows to provide that spark.
Lincoln MP Karen Lee said: “Whilst I am disappointed that the Ministry of Defence plans to close RAF Scampton and relocate the Red Arrows, I am pleased that RAF Waddington is being considered as a potential new home for the Reds.
“Bomber County has a rich RAF history, and we are proud that our county has been the home of the Red Arrows since 1983. Seeing the Red Arrows fly above Lincoln Cathedral has been an exciting sight. One which the people of Lincoln should continue to see for many years to come.
“As Lincoln’s MP, I’m determined to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire. Lincoln has the facility, the heritage and the people to rightfully justify keeping the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire. Lincolnshire has spoken and now we must wait to see whether the government listens.”
Dozens of Lincolnshire businesses and organisations were represented at the House of Lords event. They included:
- James Pinchbeck, Paul Tutin, Erica Manderfield, Streets Chartered Accountants
- Julian Free, University of Lincoln
- Lydia Rusling, Claire Williams, Sammy Pengelly, Visit Lincoln
- Daniel Ionescu, Steve Smailes, The Lincolnite
- Nicky van der Drift, International Bomber Command Centre
- Phil Bonner, Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
- Angela Andrews, City of Lincoln Council
- Jayne Southall, Lincolnshire Showground
- David Lowes, Lincoln City Football Club
- Maggie Curtis, BBC Lincolnshire
- Emma Brealey, The Petwood Hotel
- Cllr Richard Wright, North Kesteven District Council
- Mark Locking, Lincoln College
- Michelle Allison, The EBP
- Harry Leyland, Leonardo UK
- Nigel Johnson, Siemens
- Jim Windle, Branston Potatoes
- Dean Graham, CityX
- Cllr Jeff Summers, West Lindsey District Council
A number of Lincolnshire MPs attended the event to support the cause. They included Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Caroline Johnson (Sleaford & North Hykeham), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) and Victoria Atkins (Louth & Horncastle).
Lincolnshire County Council Leader Martin Hill also supports the campaign and has written to the Secretary of State. He said: “Lincolnshire offers an ideal training location – not only do we have the available airspace, but we have the high-quality housing and schools needed by the crew and their families.
“The Red Arrows have been important ambassadors for our county, and recently played a central role in a major trade visit from the governor of Hunan, China, which promises to open the door to significant investment both within Lincolnshire and the wider Midlands Engine area.
“Taking all these factors into account, we are sure the Secretary of State will agree that, of the three short-listed bases, RAF Waddington is the obvious choice for the Red Arrows’ new home.”