MoD told to ‘pull finger out’ over future of RAF Mildenhall
14:40 08 January 2016
One year on from the shock US Air Force announcement that it would leave RAF Mildenhall by 2022, the Ministry of Defence is being told to “pull its finger out” or risk damaging businesses and livelihoods in the region.
The MoD has been repeatedly asked to decide whether it has a future military use for the large base, with deadlines being pushed back again and again.
New figures put the economic benefit of the two bases in Suffolk at £700m a year, including RAF Lakenheath which is not closing.
Forest Heath District Council, together with west Suffolk partner St Edmundsbury Borough Council, is using the anniversary of the closure announcement to pile the pressure on the MoD.
James Waters, leader of Forest Heath council, said he expected a decision in the spring.
Previously he had hoped for mid-to-late 2015.
He said: “We are pushing the MoD to make a decision regarding any future military use for all or part of the RAF Mildenhall site. The council’s position is very clear. We want a commitment that the site will not be mothballed when the USAF leave – the potential damage of doing so is clear for all to see.”
At RAF Lakenheath, approximately 1,600 extra personnel in the form of two squadrons of F-35A jets will arrive in 2021. However, they are also relocating 350 personnel and two Pave Hawk helicopter rescue squadrons from Lakenheath to Italy.
The net loss of jobs will be nearly 3,000, who have many thousands more dependants such as spouses and children.
St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths said: “We certainly benefit from the USAF in St Edmundsbury.
“The closure of RAF Mildenhall could have a serious impact on the economy in the borough as well as further afield. But there is also exciting opportunities to make something special out of the site.”
An MoD spokesman said: “This is a complex piece of work which has involved examining existing infrastructure and considering suitability for future use.”