Air base lay-by plan hits deadlock

MOVES by American military chiefs to clear up parked cars outside a Suffolk airbase have suffered a setback after it emerged the Ministry of Defence does not own the land it needs to build a lay-by.

Laurence Cawley

MOVES by American military chiefs to clear up parked cars outside a Suffolk airbase have suffered a setback after it emerged the Ministry of Defence does not own the land it needs to build a lay-by.

RAF Mildenhall wanted to create a lay-by at the Kenny Hill Gate, which is often used as a drop-off point for personnel connected with the base.

At present, taxis and family members of personnel park up on the grass verge outside the gate.

But after detailed investigation it emerged the land which would be needed to build a lay-by was not in fact owned by the MoD but Suffolk County Council.

Yesterday the county council confirmed it would not be funding a dropping-off lay-by for US personnel. But because it is off the American airbase land, the US military is equally unable to fund it.

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The Catch 22 situation was raised by Squadron Leader Rick Fryer at a meeting of Beck Row, Holywell Row and Kenny Hill Parish Council. He said the base had wanted to build a lay-by but no organisation seemed able to fund it.

Parish council member Philip Haylock, who lives close to the base, said: “Aesthetically it is not too pretty but there is no bad feeling about it. A lay-by is something which would be nice to have.

“The taxis and families of those on the base park up on the grass and it would be a lot more sensible were there to be a drop off point. But it is now unlikely to happen.

“The base cannot fund stuff off the base and the county council is not willing to fund it.”

The news comes amid major changes at the base. The MoD recently won permission to extend RAF Mildenhall onto 39 acres of adjoining farmland. Once completed, the land will be sealed off by a 2.4metre high fence.

The extra farmland is being used to improve the existing runway and taxiway on the base. Defence Estates, agents for the project, said the works would boost base security and make it a safer place to work. In its letter to Forest Heath District Council, Defence Estates said the base was a vital part of the local economy and more jobs would be created as a result of the scheme.

The project also involves moving the main gate so that traffic can queue on the base rather than along the A1101, which occasionally happens at times of heightened security.

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