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Derelict RAF building could be restored and turned into company's training centre

PUBLISHED: 12:30 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:30 22 August 2019

Falcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore and extend the old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: Evelyn Simak

Falcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore and extend the old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: Evelyn Simak

Evelyn Simak

A former RAF control tower could be restored to its wartime appearance and extended to become a specialist training centre.

The 44th Bomb Group and its B-24 Liberators at Shipdham Airfield during the Second World War (1944). Picture: Submitted/Archant LibraryThe 44th Bomb Group and its B-24 Liberators at Shipdham Airfield during the Second World War (1944). Picture: Submitted/Archant Library

Falcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore the old facility on Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate, and to build one and two-storey extensions at the rear.

The plans would see the control tower transformed into "much-needed" office space, while the extensions would create a training centre for the company's tower crane operators.

Falcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore the old RAF control tower on Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: ArchantFalcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore the old RAF control tower on Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: Archant

A total of 12 parking spaces - including two disabled bays - would be provided, and the development would result in the employment of two additional staff members on top of the existing 88.

Constructed in 1941 to 1942, the RAF Air Base in Shipdham was initially home to the US Air Force's 319th Bombardment Group during the Second World War.

Falcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore and extend the old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: Evelyn SimakFalcon Tower Crane Services has submitted an application to restore and extend the old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate. Picture: Evelyn Simak

When they were replaced by the 44th Bomb Group in 1942, RAF Shipdham became the US' first heavy bomber base in Norfolk using B-24 Liberator bombers - instrumental throughout the conflict.

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From 1946 to 1947, the airfield was used as a transit centre for German prisoners of war and, by 1963, the land no longer served a military purpose and was sold off.

But six years later planning permission to re-open the airfield was granted and, the following summer, it began private flights.

A runway is surfaced at Shipdham Airfield during the Second World War (May 1943). Picture: Submitted/Archant LibraryA runway is surfaced at Shipdham Airfield during the Second World War (May 1943). Picture: Submitted/Archant Library

With much of the site now used as an industrial estate, the airfield buildings have fallen into disrepair and are predominantly derelict.

The control tower, however, remains in good structural condition and Falcon Cranes is proposing to restore the existing building to resemble its 1940s appearance.

The old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate has been derelict for decades. Picture: Evelyn SimakThe old RAF control tower at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate has been derelict for decades. Picture: Evelyn Simak

In a nod to the site's military history, the company wants to create a small museum area in the main foyer with photo boards and small exhibits to honour those who served at the base during the war.

Planning documents submitted to Breckland Council say there is an "urgent need for adequate facilities and space for a purpose built training centre".

They go on to say that the former RAF site would offer a "unique chance" to preserve the control tower by "sympathetically" converting it into office space.

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