Cambridge Aerospace firm confirms it has no interest in RAF Mildenhall site as speculation grows

RAF Mildenhall is due to close in four years.

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

A major aerospace and defence company has confirmed it has no interest in buying RAF Mildenhall as speculation grows as to the site's future use.

Cambridge-based Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group had been linked with a move for the Suffolk site earlier in the year, with the potential of part of their £1.3b turnover coming to Suffolk.

It backed out of the move in April, and yesterday confirmed that its position has not changed, regardless of the base's impending closure.

A statement from the company said: 'Marshall of Cambridge notes with sadness the announcement about the future of United States Air Force (USAF) operations at RAF Mildenhall, RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth.

'This announcement has no impact on Marshall of Cambridge or its significant ongoing programme of investment in the long term future of all of its businesses, including Cambridge Airport.'

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The firm's stance does not seem to have impacted on optimism for the site, however, with a number of possible uses being mooted.

Housing, a commercial airport, an aerospace engineering site, and business park have all been raised as possibilities.

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But council leaders in the area have said they will take a step back to consider the options, with the base's closure expected to take up to five years.

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, confirmed yesterday that the council would be looking at all options, as well as working with West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, to establish a plan and promote the site.

And his counterpart at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, John Griffiths, said today that he would be working with partners to assess the options.

'We have got to look at these things together with the Government, with the US, the county council, and of course with local businesses and the community, to work out what the best solution is.

'There's no need for a kneejerk reaction and there are a variety of opportunities on the table,' he said.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said the council would be able to draw on past experience to manage the fallout of the closure, and echoed Mr Griffiths sentiments in regards partnership working.

'This is not the first time that Suffolk has dealt with the closure of a major airbase. US forces moved out of RAF Bentwaters in 1993 and the economy of the area has subsequently benefited from growth in housing, an increasingly diverse economic base and growth in the visitor economy in nearby towns such as Woodbridge. We will look to see what lessons we can learn from this to help us with the Mildenhall closure.

'The county council will continue to support and work collaboratively with Forest Heath District Council, MP Matthew Hancock and local enterprise partnerships to keep the area's economic development at the top of our priority list; especially when this will inevitably have an effect on provision for school places locally, to ensure ongoing prosperity to Mildenhall and the surrounding areas' local economy.'

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