Ideas start to come in for RAF Mildenhall

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years.

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

The first ideas have started to come in for RAF Mildenhall, including a new garden city, a drag racing strip and third runway for Heathrow Airport.

Since the announcement earlier this month that the US Air Force base is to close, community leaders have said they are keen for people to put forward their ideas for the site's future. Forest Heath District Council and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which owns the base, have said they are looking at all of the options.

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said: 'I am thrilled by the enthusiasm and ideas that have come from our communities since the base closure was announced.

'There has been a vast array of suggestions made and at this stage we wouldn't rule any of them out. We have had people suggest that it could become a new garden city, or a drag racing strip similar to Santa Pod.'

Retired professional pilot Graham South, 79, from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has suggested the base has the potential to be Heathrow's third runway.

But a spokeswoman for Heathrow said they had already put a proposal forward to the Airports Commission for a runway to the north-west of the airport's perimeter, and the commission is due to put its recommendation to the government this summer.

David Bowman, who is vice-chairman of Mildenhall Parish Council and also the cabinet member for economic development and tourism at Forest Heath, feels the base lends itself to being an airport, but added lots of ideas were being floated.

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He said what was important was the site being used effectively and economically for the whole of the population. 'It could be the making of Mildenhall,' he added.

Mr Waters added: 'It is really important to the council that our local residents and businesses have a chance to have their say over the potential regeneration of RAF Mildenhall and it is with that in mind that we will soon be announcing the dates for a series of meetings we will hold, to discuss both the impact of the closure, and the future.'

He said he would be raising some of the suggestions made at meetings of the Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth (MAM) Working Group, to be chaired by West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock. Mr Waters vowed to put pressure on the MoD to make any decision on the future of the base within the next six months.

The MoD spokeswoman said: 'We are looking at all of the options. The announcement was obviously made very recently and we are in the process of working with the US government to understand the timeframe for their withdrawal from the base and what that means.'

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