A MAJOR investment, totalling more than £11 million, is to be made into RAF St Mawgan in a bid to secure its long-term future, the Cornish Guardian can reveal.
The ambitious plans come as the base celebrates its 70th anniversary later this month. Around £9 million has been invested in creating a new survival training facility while a Second World War airfield adjacent to the station is being developed into a professionally managed exercise and training area.
It means more than 2,000 personnel can use the space for training exercises at any one time – twice the previous capacity.
A further £2.4 million is being splashed on the station's guard room, which has been in need of repair for some time.
It is hoped the plans for the base, which hosts around 100,000 bed nights each year, will ensure its long-term survival by making it as "attractive" to "customers" as possible and therefore increasing the demand from units to visit.
RAF St Mawgan spokesman Jeff Spencer said the investment proves "we are likely to stay in the local area".
He added: "RAF St Mawgan has played a key role in defence and the Cornish community for nearly 70 years. Our current plans for the base make maximum use of our land and buildings and provide better and efficient use of taxpayers' money.
"We want to make sure St Mawgan survives and to make sure all the facilities are fully utilised. We must make sure we get the maximum out of it.
"This is a great example of creative use of existing land and facilities which will hopefully increase the demand from units to visit the base and drive down overall costs while enhancing the local economy."
RAF St Mawgan, which employs around 220 service personnel and 60 civilians, was opened in 1943 and will celebrate its 70-year anniversary on February 23.
The runway went from being under military control to being controlled by Newquay Cornwall Airport in 2008 and since then there has been speculation as to its long-term future.
However, the base said these latest plans form part of a major investment to ensure it is used to its "maximum" potential.
The station is divided into three parts – RAF St Mawgan, Trebelzue Airfield and bomb dumps used for storage.
The Trebelzue Airfield is being developed into a training area with a firing range and turning tracks and is hoped to be completed by April. The survival training facility is expected to be finished by June.
Mr Spencer said: "Despite the airfield transferring to commercial management as Newquay Cornwall Airport (NCA), co-operation is such that military aircraft can still utilise one of the longest and widest runways in the UK through an excellent partnership with the NCA team.
"There is now the room for almost double the amount of ARRC (Allied Rapid Reaction Corps) personnel, for example, that came down last year.
"When the guys come down, they enjoyed it so much they come back with their families.
"It is introducing people to Cornwall.
"These days we do not have a right for continued employment.
"People have to see that their money is being well spent."
A proms in the park concert, open to the public, will be held at the station on September 7 to celebrate the anniversary.
See the Cornish Guardian's February 27 edition for a tribute to the landmark.