U.S. base blamed for loss of trade

By Patrick LowmanSHOPS surrounding a U.S. air base are being forced out of business because increased security measures are driving customers away, it has been claimed.

By Patrick Lowman

SHOPS surrounding a U.S. air base are being forced out of business because increased security measures are driving customers away, it has been claimed.

Traders at the Earls Field Shopping Centre, close to RAF Lakenheath, have been struggling since stringent security measures where introduced after the terrorist attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001.

It is now 18 months since the traders were first affected by the new measures and they now fear their businesses might not survive.


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As part of the security measures, Suffolk County Council backed a Ministry of Defence request to temporarily close off roads that run through the air base and military accommodation sites.

Two of the road closures, at Lord Walk and Earl's Close, mean access to the shopping area is now restricted and closed to passing traffic.

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The Ministry of Defence is set to apply to Suffolk County Council to make the road closures permanent when the latest temporary agreement expires on March 20 – and some the traders fear it will be the final nail in the coffin.

Jeremy Morley who runs the Spar shop, claims the road closures have cost him about £200,000 since October because customers and passing trade now find it inconvenient to get to the shop.

"We are a convenience store that is no longer convenient. My business is 50% down, I have 2,000 less customers a week," he said of the situation six months after the road closure was introduced.

Winnie Jung, who runs the Golden Egg Chinese takeaway at the shopping centre, said: "The roads are still closed and we still don't know how much longer it will go on.

"The situation with my business is very bad – my trade is around 45% down. At the moment we are still surviving, but I don't how much longer we can go on like this."

Lakenheath's county councillor Mary Crane said although she sympathised with the traders, security at the base must remain paramount.

"I have seen Mr Morley's figures and his business has been affected, but I do support the security measures," she added.

"The county council took the decision on the advice of the chief constable and the Ministry of Defence and I have to go along with that view. While I sympathise with the traders, in the current political climate security has to be paramount."

Meanwhile, soldiers from the United States National Guard will begin operating at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall from this morning as the countdown to war in Iraq continues.

The part-time soldiers have been moved to U.S. bases in Britain for the first time to step up security as fear of terrorist attacks grows.

About 100 National Guardsmen will begin work at the fighter station at RAF Lakenheath and a similar number will operate at the neighbouring tanker base at RAF Mildenhall.

patrick.lowman@eadt.co.uk

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