‘Stop the airbase houses’
A parish councillor has called on the people of West Row to have their say about plans for RAF Mildenhall that he fears could ‘swamp’ the village.
Gerald Taylor-Balls, who has always lived in West Row and has been a parish councillor for 37 years, believes that because the debate over the base’s future always refers to ‘RAF Mildenhall’, residents and the authorities are not paying enough attention to the way future plans will impact West and Beck Rows.
“It’s always ‘RAF Mildenhall’ but it lies between West Row and Beck Row,” he said. “The boundary is in the middle of the runway.”
The “RAF Mildenhall Vision and Prospectus” drawn up by consultants for Forest Heath District Council and now open for public consultation, suggests when the USAF leave in about 2023, 2,000 houses plus public open space could be placed between the runway and the West Row to Mildenhall road.
Mr Taylor-Balls argues: “You’re talking about a mini town. The idea of 2,000 houses is going to swamp the village.
“You’ll need everything new – you would have to have schools and doctors and everything. Plus you’ve got the 140 new houses approved opposite the school.
“I would urge all West Row people to put pressure on to stop the houses.”
He fears the plans for the base could see West Row effectively joined to Mildenhall.
The runway would be retained for aviation purposes, but the indicated housing area adjoins it.
Mr Taylor-Balls said: “If you are going to have aviation there, how can you build houses next to the runway?
“My personal view is it should be a commercial airfield. There’s Heathrow and Gatwick wanting new runways and this is one of the best runways in Europe. There’s also a new control tower and a passenger terminal.”
But Forest Heath council stress that the consultants found, using Civil Aviation Authority catchment areas, that an airport there would attract 360,000 to 750,000 passengers, which is not viable. Cargo operators would not move away from London and East Anglian cargo was served by Stansted.
There will be a drop-in event about the prospectus at Forest Heath’s offices in College Heath Road, Mildenhall, on Thursday September 29 between 4pm and 8pm and at the town’s Jubilee Centre at the same times on October 4.
The prospectus and consultation is also at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/mildenhallfuture