A parliamentary candidate for West Suffolk has claimed that the closure of RAF Mildenhall should be seen as an opportunity for the area.
Niall Pettit, Green Party representative, and life-long Mildenhall resident believed that the decision by US government officials to close the base could open up other avenues for the town including the potential for new homes and industry.
“There will be a huge knock-on effect for jobs locally given that 3,200 US service personnel were based there and there will be thousands of people in Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk whose livelihoods will be partly or wholly dependent on the base. But allowing a swathe of our fenland to become runways for military aircraft was never the most productive choice,” said Mr Pettit.
“This is a vast area and there ought to be room for some industry, given that the industrial estate is next door. There could be some new affordable houses, some horticulture or agriculture and also some recreational and nature conservation use.”
While Mr Pettit would like to see the area, once left vacant, utilised for other purposes he has stressed that the option of creating a private airport is something he does not believe would benefit the town.
“I and many other residents would resist any idea to create a private airport as has been mooted in the past,” said Mr Pettit.
“We have no need for the noise and pollution of an airport. In these times of man-made climate change, improved rail and public transport links would do far more to sustain Mildenhall’s economy than an airport.
“I understand that local politicians have been privately briefed on this closure. Politicians should not be panicked into accepting the first bid from speculative developers. We need to have an open, public discussion as soon as possible so that there can be no suggestion of secret deals and so that the needs of local people are met.”