Could RAF Mildenhall become another Milton Keynes-style new town when USA forces move out in 2022?
08:47 11 December 2015
Concerns that a “Milden Keynes” new town could be created on RAF Mildenhall have been raised after the Government injected £230,000 to help planning for life after the US Air Force leaves by 2022.
It was announced earlier this week that Forest Heath District Council would receive the money, which will also help support planning for the Mildenhall public service hub project, which would bring a range of organisations, from the NHS to schools, on to one site.
While West Row resident John Smith welcomed the £230,000 as a “message” from the Government there will be no future military use, he said it has also raised the prospect of creating a new town, like Milton Keynes.
He said: “There have been very mixed messages coming from our politicians. In the absence of clear information people are creating their own versions. The ‘it will never close rumour’ now has such a hold that ‘buy to lets’ are still being built.
“Since they are now preparing for closure...we can only take that as a steer from those much higher up in the political machine.”
The MoD, who own the base, have pushed back the decision on whether they will have a military use for it. They are due to announce in early 2016. Mr Smith said the grant of £230,000 spread over both hub and base projects raised concerns over housing, claiming the hub was not “viable” without largescale housing expansion.
Mr Smith added: “By linking this to the base and in the absence of a commercial plan for the future it takes us neatly back to the ‘Milden Keynes’ scheme which is the very sort of project this government is so keen to promote.”
Forest Heath leader James Waters, hit back at Mr Smith, saying: “The future of Mildenhall is not a cheap soundbite or joke, it is very serious. We don’t yet know the future of the base, but we do know that communities back our stance that it must not be mothballed. If there is not to be a military use, our vision for the future of the base will include a large element of employment use.
“The hub is needed now and already viable, and is about delivering better joined up public services...at cheaper running costs.”
Rosalind Hamill, West Row member on Mildenhall Parish Council, called for more clarity. “When I saw they had awarded this money, my first thoughts were they must be certain what is happening with the base,” she said. “But no one has made an announcement. It just gets delayed and delayed – no one takes responsibility.”