Air show cancelled for fourth year

SOARING security costs at a Suffolk military base have been blamed for the fourth cancellation of one of Europe's biggest air shows.The annual RAF Mildenhall Air Fete – which has in the past attracted crowds of more than 500,000 people and boosted the area's economy – has not been held since the September 11 attack in 2001.

SOARING security costs at a Suffolk military base have been blamed for the fourth cancellation of one of Europe's biggest air shows.

The annual RAF Mildenhall Air Fete - which has in the past attracted crowds of more than 500,000 people and boosted the area's economy - has not been held since the September 11 attack in 2001.

Operational demands during the war in Afghanistan, and most recently, runway resurfacing, have been cited as reasons for the show's cancellation in subsequent years.

But yesterday base officials announced that residents in Suffolk will be given a big 'thank-you' for their support of RAF Mildenhall over the past four years when they are invited to a Community Appreciation Day in June.

The ticket-only event will give 25,000 people living in the St Edmundsbury, Forest Heath, Breckland and East Cambridgeshire boroughs of East Anglia the opportunity to visit the base for the event, which will include small flying demonstrations and entertainment from ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again.

Col Richard Devereaux, 100th Air Refuelling Wing Commander, said the Community Appreciation Day is not a replacement for previous air shows, but is intended to show the base's appreciation for the support provided by local communities.

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"Since September 11, this base has tightened its security and we have found there is the perception that walls have been built around RAF Mildenhall and the rest of the village," he said. "As a result, we want to create a bridge between us and the community.

"This event is targeted towards our local friends and neighbours. We want to be able to show off our equipment and facilities, and give people the chance to come along and see exactly what it is we do here."

In past years, the costs of the air show and the extra security measures needed for the day were covered by the ticket price for the event. But now, new air force regulations mean the base is no longer able to charge an entry fee.

"Security always comes first and foremost at any event held on the base, and the cost of providing the level of security we need to ensure people's safety is beyond the means available to us be able to hold a full-scale air show this year," added Col Deveraux.

He said the number of people invited to attend this year's event had been restricted to 25,000, due to a limit in the number of car-parking facilities available on the base, but added that the volume of traffic generated by the appreciation day would be dramatically less than would travel to Mildenhall for the air fete.

"Parking will be on-base only and we will work with the police and our local councils to ensure that those residents who live closest to the base are able to move as freely as possible," he said.

But despite assurances from the base, some local residents remain sceptical about the event.

Tony Malloy, who owns Beck Row Newsagents near to the entrance of the base, said he feels that as in previous years when the air show took place, the village and its economy will suffer rather than benefit from the event.

"Local people have not been taken into account in the past, and we have been left with the situation of being over-run by cars travelling to and from the show," he said.

But Beck Row Parish Council chairman Philip Haylock said he is looking forward to the event.

"Anything that provides entertainment for local people can only be a good thing," he said.

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