Following yesterday’s confusion, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed it will have no interest in RAF Mildenhall after the USAF leaves in 2023.
As we reported yesterday, there was confusion after the MoD told Forest Heath Council and Mildenhall’s MP Matt Hancock after an estate review published on Monday that it was relinquishing the whole site but told the Bury Free Press that there might be ‘an army interest’ after it was handed back.
This morning (Wednesday) a spokeswoman for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, which conducted the review and looks after the MoD estate, confirmed: “The MoD doesn’t need RAF Mildenhall after it receives it back from the US. There will be no presence there in future.”
This was not the first confusion over the site. When the MoD announced in January that RAF Mildenhall would be available for housing it incorrectly said it had outline planning permission for 4,000 homes there when no application has ever been made.
The MoD said then that part of the site will be released for housing and was it considering whether it wanted to retain part of the site for British military use.
Monday’s strategic review of its estate said ‘no UK reprovision [is] required’ for the RAF once the USAF leaves. But when the Bury Free Press asked for clarification, an MoD spokesman said: “The RAF do not require the site though there may be Army interest in Mildenhall once it has been released back to the UK.”
Cllr James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said on Monday:“Today’s announcement is the next step towards understanding how the regeneration of RAF Mildenhall will take place.
“It provides the opportunity to take the work of the council and its partners and to say to the Government and the MoD.
“Now let’s work together to achieve an economic legacy for the site that we can all be proud of.”
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock welcomed the announcement as setting a firm date by which the MoD will leave the whole site was ‘a very helpful step’.
Forest Heath has been consulting the public on RAF Mildenhall’s future in the hope of influencing Government decisions on the base.
Cllr Waters said their vision for the site is one which ‘creates new jobs, provides land for new industry coupled with housing and aviation use centred around maintenance, repair and overhaul - a fantastic way to bring new employment to the area and retain use of the runway and other aviation infrastructure on site’.
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said: “From the moment the US Air Force said they were pulling out of Mildenhall we have been united in our determination that we have a plan in place before they leave, to look after people affected and so the site can be put to good use.
“Today’s announcement of a firm date by which they will leave the whole site is a very helpful step on that way. We now have six years to work together to make sure that, from the moment the base closes in 2023, we can put it to best use.
“I pay tribute to the hard work of the Council and others so far, and I look forward to working with everyone involved to make sure we use the time wisely.”
Hermione Brown, chairwoman of Lakenheath Parish council’s planning committee, said: “FHDC now has time to put in place a master plan to satisfy the housing and infrastructure needs for the whole district – a new start with a fresh plan rather than imposing inappropriate development on communities, such as Lakenheath which does not have the necessary road capacity and services to take the level of proposed development.”
The review says RAF Regiment housing at RAF Barnham near Thetford will be provided for at RAF Honington, though the force will still require access to Barnham’s training area.