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Government told it has three months to decide on military future of RAF Mildenhall

11:33 31 January 2015

Aerial view of RAF Mildenhall. Picture: Mike Page

Aerial view of RAF Mildenhall. Picture: Mike Page

Copypright Mike Page, All Rights Reserved Before any use is made of this picture, including dispaly, publication, broadcast, syn

The government has been given three months to “make its mind up” over potential military use of RAF Mildenhall.

The demand was made today at the first working group meeting about the future of the region’s US Air Force bases at Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth, set to close by 2022.

The demand was made by Forest Heath District Council Leader James Waters, who said he “did not hold back” and made his message to the Ministry of Defence clear.

At the meeting, chaired by West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, Mr Waters said he made a strong case for end of military use, claiming the “positive” economic benefit would be far greater with council backed plans for civilian use.

He said: “It was a positive meeting. We got our message across and everybody was listening. I told the MoD ‘we need to know in the next three months, we need some sort of steer’. We cannot and will not let the grass grow under our feet.

“I did not hold back. I told them we can make it (civilian use) stand up, the economic benefits will far outweigh what any MoD use could bring.”

Mr Waters also stressed that the council will be planning for the expansion at RAF Lakenheath, with new F-35 jets bringing over 1,000 personnel to the base.

Last year, RAF Mildenhall, with 3,200 airmen, 1,000 civilians and their thousands of dependents, brought £220 million to the region’s economy. The closure was announced by the US Department of Defence in early January and will take four to seven years.

The Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: “The first meeting was very constructive and there was a shared sense of purpose and commitment to working together to explore all the options.

“It is vital the time before the departure of the US forces is used wisely, and this group will ensure that it is.”

Despite the council’s demands, an MoD spokeswoman said that they will not take ownership of the site until at least 2019, and could not say whether military use would continue.

Mr Waters, who is a Conservative councillor for the Eriswell and the Rows, said that the views of the community were key to the future of the base.

He announced dates for a series of meetings with local businesses, residents and other interested parties.

The first of these takes place on Thursday, February 26, and will assess the impact of the closure on housing.

The focus will be on the local communities at a second meeting on Monday March 9.

Finally, a meeting on Wednesday March 11 will look at the impact of the closure on the economy, businesses and jobs.

10 comments

  • Strong words from a district council to a national government.

    Report this comment

    Radshenko

    Sunday, February 1, 2015

  • Turn it into a drag strip like Santa Pod or build a new civilian airport that actually goes to places holiday makers want to go so we can replace Norwich Airport...that doesn't.

    Report this comment

    Resident Smith

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

  • bit of a sticky wicket for the omnipresent and oleaginous Matthew Hancock: let us all hope against hope that this will not deflect him from occupying out TV screens in his sparring with Chris Leslie (MP Lab): he would be sorely missed

    Report this comment

    martin wallis

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

  • Whatever your thoughts about this strutting council, how might this affect our council proposals for Coltishall.

    Report this comment

    Alharry

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

  • The government have not 'got three months' they have been told by a bunch of local nobody's that they have three months. Not quite the same thing.

    Report this comment

    Zameer

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

  • Waters might spend his time better doing something to put a stop to the dogging in broad daylight in Mildenhall Forest picnic area which ruined a relative's day out with her small children last weekend. If families cannot park and walk from a popular picnic area without being confronted by obscene behaviour and made to feel anxious for their personal safety the police and Forest Heath council should be ashamed.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • My my about as impressive as a little bantam c*ckerel strutting round the yard. A site of such immense importance as Mildenhall should be held in reserve in case it is needed again in the future- it would be very hard to replace. Forest Heath council has plenty of room to develop what ever plans it has for industry and commerce elsewhere. And in any case surely any future use would be determined by what is going to go on at Lakenheath?

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • Good show, that's just enough time for the useless windbag local MPs to blow lots of hot air in the general direction of general electors.

    Report this comment

    Mr. Cameron Isdishonest

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • Silly is hardly the word for it. When has a council ever moved that quick? This is just another useless group, probably spending tax payers money, running round in circles, to no avail. Holding any meeting of this sort prior to the general election is plan daft, especially when we don't know when the site will be vacated.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Friday, January 30, 2015

  • What a silly man Mr Waters is. Who does he think he is. Nothing will be decided before the general election.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Friday, January 30, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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