Politicians joining forces to find a new role for RAF Mildenhall

Matt Hancock is heading a working party looking at future uses of RAF Mildenhall.

Matt Hancock is heading a working party looking at future uses of RAF Mildenhall. - Credit: Archant � 2013

Politicians have expressed sadness and concern about the proposed closure of RAF Mildenhall, but are already looking to the future of the airfield.

West Suffolk MP and Government minister Matthew Hancock is to head a new working party looking at possible new uses for the RAF Mildenhall site after the USAF pulls out in 2019.

And he has met defence secretary Michael Fallon to discuss support for the area during and after the American pull-out from the base.

Labour MP Richard Howitt spoke of his sadness at the news of the closure – while the Green Party felt the pull-out represented a significant opportunity for the area.

Mr Hancock said: “Mildenhall has a long and proud history of strong relations with the United States Air Force.

“From Mildenhall the US and the UK stood united in their commitment to freedom and democracy.

“With this deep history in mind, news of the proposed closure of Mildenhall will come as a shock to many.”

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The Government is creating a Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth (MAM) Working Group, chaired by Mr Hancock, which will involve local LEPs, councils, the Ministry of Defence and US representatives to try to support Mildenhall and the surrounding area.

Mr Hancock added: “Although this is difficult news, we have four years to plan for these changes. And I have confidence that, with hard work, Mildenhall will survive and prosper, as it has done for centuries.”

Mr Howitt said: “I am saddened by the RAF Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth closures being announced today and have always appreciated the courtesy of USAF personnel.”

Green Party spokesman Niall Pettit said: “There will be a huge knock-on effect for jobs locally given that 3,200 US service personnel were based there and there will be thousands of people in Cambridgeshire and west Suffolk whose livelihoods will be partly or wholly dependent on the base. But allowing a swathe of our fenland to become runways for military aircraft was never the most productive choice.

“Politicians should not be panicked into accepting the first bid from speculative developers.

“We need to have an open, public discussion as soon as possible so that there can be no suggestion of secret deals and so that the needs of local people are met.”

And Forest Heath Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Huggan said: “I hope that we are now talking urgently to central Government as to what measures will be put in place to make sure that the local economy does not suffer.

“We cannot afford years of wrangling like what happened with Bentwaters.”