Villagers vow to fight U.S. homes plan

By Lisa CleverdonVILLAGERS have vowed to fight plans to provide almost 600 homes for American military personnel and their families.The U.S. Air Force wants to build an extra 590 homes near its air bases at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall by 2008, with 150 properties planned for Beck Row.

By Lisa Cleverdon

VILLAGERS have vowed to fight plans to provide almost 600 homes for American military personnel and their families.

The U.S. Air Force wants to build an extra 590 homes near its air bases at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall by 2008, with 150 properties planned for Beck Row.

It is now working with Forest Heath District Council on deciding where and how many homes will be built, but base officials are hopeful work on the developments will begin as soon as early 2005.


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However, Beck Row Community Association warned last night it would fight to save the identity of the village and is working on a plan of action to contest the housing plans.

Association chairman, Grenville Dale, said residents of the village felt let down and claimed their views about the new developments, which they feared would change Beck Row forever, were being ignored.

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Mr Dale, who has been a resident of Beck Row for the past 30 years, added: "The new homes will come right into the centre of the village, which will not only mean road closure, but also complete disruption of daily life for the residents.

"Priority has been given to the needs of the Americans, while the local community has been completely ignored."

The U.S. Air Force wants to build two, three and four-bedroom off-base houses to make up for a shortage of housing in the area. It will not own the properties, but will lease them.

There are about 10,000 active-duty personnel at the two bases, but 95% of the houses used by U.S. Air Force families are up to a 30-minute drive away and officials want them to live closer to work.

But Mr Dale said: "The whole situation is ludicrous. Residents in Beck Row would probably welcome a certain amount of change, but this is a complete takeover.

"They have already built 120 homes here for servicemen and women and we used to be able to share their community with them, but now they have put fences up and have excluded us from getting into areas of our own village.

"Up until two years ago we had the support of the district council, but now it has done a complete turnaround and it seems it is in favour of the development."

Mr Dale said the next likely step in the village's battle against the planes was for the parish council to write a protest letter to the Government.

Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Ward, deputy commander of the 48th Mission Support Group, based at RAF Lakenheath, said the U.S. Air Force needed better housing and to bring people closer to work.

He added the U.S. Air Force would work closely Forest Heath District Council over the plans to ensure both sides were happy with the developments.

No-one was available for comment yesterday from Forest Heath District Council's planning department.

lisa.cleverdon@eadt.co.uk

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