RAF Mildenhall: Suffolk County Council and Enterprise Partnerships promise help after USAF bombshell

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years.

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

Local authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership have sprung into action in a bid to ease the impact of the closure of RAF Mildenhall.

Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee said: “Suffolk has a long history of USAF bases in the county and we have always welcomed their presence and the contribution they make to our local communities.

“The announcement of the proposed closure of RAF Mildenhall is disappointing but I welcome the fact that there will be further investment in RAF Lakenheath.

He said they would be looking to learn lessons from the experience of US forces moving out of RAF Bentwaters in 1993.

He added: “The county council will continue to support and work with Forest Heath District Council, MP Matt Hancock and local enterprise partnerships to keep the area’s economic development at the top of our priority list.”

Local county councillor Colin Noble’s division includes both Mildenhall and Lakenheath air bases, but not Mildenhall itself.

He said: “It is disappointing that they are closing Mildenhall, but it is good that Lakenheath is to be strengthened in the years ahead.

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“We now have to work very hard to ensure a productive new use is found for Mildenhall. We have just seen the completion of the upgrade of the A11 and that must help the prospects of seeing this redeveloped.”

And James Waters, leader of Forest Heath said: “We have enjoyed a strong relationship over the years with the American Air Force and are delighted that this is to continue.

“The USAF contributes significantly to the local economy so the expansion of RAF Lakenheath, and with it the US Government’s commitment to the site as part of its long term plans, is very welcome news. But this happiness is obviously tempered by our sadness that Mildenhall is to close.

“Both the closure and the expansion will also impact on our own plans for housing and jobs. Forest Heath will now endeavour to work with the county council and our other partners to address their impact in terms of the community, economy, education and housing.”

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership is expected to be asked to take a leading role in helping to make the redevelopment of the air base attractive to a developer.

LEP chairman Mark Pendlington said: “This is clearly serious news. We are already working closely with our local authority partners, neighbouring LEPs and MPs, including Matt Hancock, to assess the full impact of the announcement and to work on a co-ordinated approach to minimise the impact.”