RAF Mildenhall plans ‘must focus on needs of Suffolk’, chamber leaders warn

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years.

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

Regeneration plans for the RAF Mildenhall site must put the needs of Suffolk, its people and its economy first, two business leaders from the county have warned.

Graham Abbey, chairman of Newmarket & District Chamber of Commerce, says the redevelopment of the base should not be driven by pressures resulting from the success of Cambridge – a view backed by Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore.

RAF Mildenhall is among a dozen sites being put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence, with the US Air Force planning to quit the base which it has used for more than half a century, and the first part of the 1,100-acre site to be released has been earmarked for 4,000 homes.

But Mr Abbey said: “While we accept the need for more homes as our populations grows it is vitally important that we build something the local community and local business will benefit from.

“To see the future of this site as simply some sort of ‘Cambridge overflow’ would be misguided and is not what our county needs.There has to be the right mix of homes and business with a focus on the right investment that will support west Suffolk and its thriving economy.”

Mr Dugmore added: “This is all about building a future for Suffolk. As plans develop over 2016 we need to see the opportunity for our county maximised.

“Whether it is supply chain construction jobs, new jobs created or facilities and infrastructure in place there has to be a focus on what is right for the Suffolk economy, those who drive it, those who use it and those who benefit the most from it. If there is not then this will be an enormous wasted opportunity.”