A regional daily’s award-winning campaign to secure the future of a local RAF base has been a success after a defence announcement which will see the site safeguarded until 2040.
The Eastern Daily Press launched its Make It Marham campaign in 2010 as it called for the site to be maintained as the base for the UK’s Tornado jets when government defence cuts were made.
The launch of the campaign saw the paper take the unusual step of turning its front page into a petition form for the first time in its history, which called on Prime Minister David Cameron to prevent the base from closing.
Now defence secretary Philip Hammond has announced that RAF Marham will be the base for the next generation of fast jet strike aircraft – the Lightning II – securing its future and 5,000 jobs until 2040.
To celebrate the success of the campaign, the paper has published a wraparound front page, pictured below, and also has 12 pages of coverage.
Following yesterday’s announcement, EDP editor Nigel Pickover said: “This is a hugely significant day for Norfolk and the EDP has been delighted to be the vanguard of ongoing campaigns for RAF Marham.
“I pay tribute to EDP teams past and present for their persistent campaigning – the significance of today will be in thousands of jobs and economic success for Norfolk a generation to come.
“With the aircraft carrier link to the Lightning 2 Strike Fighter Base at Marham, Nelson’s County will now be a premier league naval county too. We’re very excited.”
Mr Hammond said the joint strike fighter would be based at Marham as part of a combined RAF and Royal Naval force which would operate the aircraft both from land bases and future aircraft carriers.
He said: “That’s extremely good news for this station, extremely good news for this community and extremely good news for the RAF and Royal Navy.
“I know you will share with me the excitement of having the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft based here and operating from here.”
The paper’s campaign was initially launched when the government was deciding whether to base its Tornado fleet solely at Marham or RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
In just four weeks, 36,000 people signed the petition to save the base, which was presented to Downing Street.
In July 2011 the then defence secretary Liam Fox announced that RAF Marham would be saved and the Tornados would remain.
But the paper continued its Make It Marham campaign, using its logo alongside stories about the base’s future, because the Tornado was nearing the end of its operational life span, so would need to be replaced.
The campaign won the community campaign of the year category in the EDF Energy East of England awards last year.