Aviation at RAF Mildenhall ‘to continue’ after USAF withdraw as district council jump on ‘huge opportunity’ to create ‘even more jobs’

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years.

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Aviation is set to continue at RAF Mildenhall, long after the US Air Force have left.

This is the intention of Forest Heath District Council, who today revealed they could buy the site from the government.

The “world class” runway and facilities have been described as a “massive asset”, with the closure being viewed as a big opportunity to bring “a lot more jobs” to the area.

Leader of Forest Heath District Council, James Waters, said: “The runway is one of the biggest in Europe, but that said, we will look at every angle.

“This could put us on the map. It is real chance to say ‘we are open for business’. The benefits for the area could be huge.”

Mr Waters stressed the importance of putting pressure on the Ministry of Defence and not to sit back

“Other areas might just say ‘this is bad’ and let other people sort out the next step,” he said.

“We are not like that, we just get on with it. We have to pressure the MoD into deciding whether they will keep the base for any future military use.

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“We will be asking ‘is there an opportunity for the district council and other partners to purchase that site?’ and then we will know where we are.”

With the closure of base set to take between five to seven years, Suffolk County councillor Colin Noble is keen to build a detailed plan.

The member for the Row Heath ward said: “We want to hit the ground running when the base closes.

“We don’t want it to be mothballed waiting for someone to come up with a use.”

Mr Noble, who is also a Forest Heath district councillor for Lakenheath, made it clear that he saw aviation continuing after the base closes.

“We have to take advantage of what is a world class runway. The jobs related to aviation are of a high class,” he said.

“The runway is clearly an asset that has had a lot of investment put into it, it should be put to use.

“We are looking at a net loss of around 2,000 personnel. We are looking to create a lot more jobs than that.

“It can be an opportunity for the area, and that is absolutely how we are looking at it. It is not blind optimism.”

It has been suggested that Marshall aerospace, who own Cambridge Airport, could relocate to the site.

Mr Noble said: “There is an obvious future for continued large scale aviation business use. Marshall is the nearest business of that type.

“We can talk to Marshall and other aviation business from across East Anglia and wider afield.

“The district council is very well placed to make sure the economic opportunity is taken full advantage of.

“It is sad that this long relationship is ending, but we have to try and absolutely maximise the benefit we can achieve.”

A spokesman for Marshall, said: “This (base closure) announcement has no impact on Marshall of Cambridge or its significant ongoing programme of investment in the long term future of all of its businesses, including Cambridge Airport.”