MoD decision is great news for the region

18 Jan 2016

James Waters

Following 12 months of campaigning by Forest Heath District Council on behalf of its communities and businesses, The MoD which owns the Mildenhall base, has today announced that following a review of its estates, it no longer requires the site.

Leader of Forest Heath District Council, Councillor James Waters said: “We have campaigned for a prompt decision from the MoD over whether it wanted the site for some military purpose and a pledge from them that it wouldn’t be mothballed. The certainty brought by today’s announcement that the MoD doesn’t need the land is great news for the East of England as a whole.

“However the future use of the site has to be one that meets local needs – and that is not about simply selling off land for housing. We need to be replacing jobs with jobs and working with our communities to ensure a prosperous future.

“Now the hard work really begins.

“Whatever the future use for the airbase site may be, it will dramatically change the future not just of the Mildenhall area, but of West Suffolk and the wider sub region.” 

Forest Heath District Council, together with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP, New Anglia LEP and the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group were told just before Christmas that they had been successful with a £230,000 bid for funds from the Government’s One Public Estate Programme. The main part of this capacity funding is allocated to creating a fully developed and viable plan for the future use of the airbase site after the U.S Air Force leave in 2022.

Cllr Waters said: “The Government funding is recognition that we, working with our local communities, are best placed to take this project forward.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to use publicly-owned land to shape the future of Mildenhall and the surrounding area.

“There is already a very long list of ideas for the future of the site and I believe that we are best placed to lead the regeneration of the site by working in partnership with our MP, the Government property unit, the MoD, both LEPs and Suffolk County Council.”

Last week Forest Heath revealed that early work on an economic impact study, indicated that RAF Mildenhall, and RAF Lakenheath which is to expand, are collectively worth up to £700 million to the economies of West Suffolk, Breckland and East Cambridgeshire.

“While the potential impact of the base closure is clear to see, we are well positioned to ensure the jobs lost from the closure of RAF Mildenhall are replaced with new jobs, and the houses left by Mildenhall base personnel are quickly filled,” Cllr Waters said.

“The £120m dualling of the A11, linking Norwich to Cambridge and London, offers huge potential for economic growth in this area. Cambridge is a World leader in science and innovation and is bursting at the seams and we are only 12 miles down the road with a 1,240 acre site on the table.

“We will be working with the Government to assess the true value and viability of the land and potential future uses. The condition of the site is likely to be heavily constrained due to its long military use and we expect this to be taken into account by the Government when they look to sell the site. We would also expect, under the OPE programme, to be involved in any sale process.

“We will shortly be arranging and announcing a fresh set of engagement sessions where we can discuss ideas with members of our local communities. We are adamant that the big decisions over the future of this site need to be made here in the very communities that will be impacted by the closure and we can now look forward to taking this work forward.”

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