Stoke Newington RAF cadets squadron saved from closure after protests

The 296 squadron of the RAF Air Training Corps (ATC).

The 296 squadron of the RAF Air Training Corps (ATC). - Credit: Archant

Controversial plans to close an RAF cadets squadron in Stoke Newington after 77 years have been put on hold after a huge backlash.

The squadron outside the Albion Road base for promotions last year.

The squadron outside the Albion Road base for promotions last year. - Credit: Archant

Forces chiefs told the management of the 296 squadron of the Air Training Corp (ATC) the Albion Road headquarters was being shut because of a lack of volunteers, which led to “issues with recruiting and retaining cadets.”

But campaigners believed the decision was made so the building, valued at £2million plus, could be sold off as part of a new “efficiencies plan”.

They say the squadron is vital to help keep youngsters on the straight and narrow.

Former chairman Ralph Barwick said he had never seen such an outpouring of anger and disgust as he did at the meeting about the closure last month, when parents, ex-cadets, ex-staff and cadet officers all let their feelings known.

“All squadrons, no matter what their history, and 296 is known by all to have one of the finest, are subject to cyclical condition and there is no doubt that 296 is emerging from a trough at the moment,” he said.

“Many offers of help were pledged by ex-cadets on that evening, when the general feeling was: ‘This must not be allowed to happen’.”

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Hackney mayor Phil Glanville also wrote to RAF chiefs urging them to rethink the closure.

He said: “Given the importance of local youth provision, especially going into the summer, we are disappointed the council does not appear to have been consulted on this decision.”

And the protests have worked, at least for now.

Air commodore Dawn McCafferty, commandant of the RAF air cadets, has said the decision will be reviewed.

She said in a letter to Mr Barwick: “The squadron will be allowed to continue to operate for now, while options for its future are explored.

“A plan is being developed that will include a series of measures to ensure the squadron can deliver a safe and fulfilling cadet experience which will be reviewed in 12 months.

“While the RAF air cadets are committed to providing young people with challenging and exciting opportunities to develop skills that can be used in either civilian or military life, the organisation is utterly dependant on support from volunteers.

“It is important that the pledged support continues to ensure the sustainability of the squadron in the future.”