Councillors have heard the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will make a decision about any future military use of the soon-to-close RAF Mildenhall by September.
The announcement was made by the MOD, which owns the site, at the second meeting of the Government’s Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth (MAM) Working Group in London on Tuesday.
Two meetings about the base closure’s impact on businesses and communities, organised by Forest Heath District Council, took place in Mildenhall this week further to a meeting about the impact on the housing market in February.
The district council has argued the USAF base’s future should be decided at a local level, a view which was backed by members of the community at this week’s meetings.
Cllr James Waters, leader of the council, said all the week’s meetings seemed ‘reasonably positive’.
“I think we will have a decision from the MOD in the original timeframe we set them, which is good because most concerns are about getting in there to actually do something in the early stages,” he said.
“Our communities agree with us that if the site is redeveloped, infrastructure including transport, health and education will need to be included at an early stage in the development.
“Their chief concern is that the site is not mothballed by the MOD – it is the drum that I have been beating at both MAM meetings to date.”
Cllr Waters said the council, along with local businesses, was seeking further clarification about the timescale for RAF Lakenheath’s expansion in order to ensure ‘appropriate infrastructure’ can be put in place.
He believed more than £100 million was to be invested in the USAF fighter base in the next 10 years.
“The extensive expansion at RAF Lakenheath in the future is going to be massive for the local economy,” he said.
“If anything happens we need to have the appropriate infrastructure to deal with it.”
Cllr Waters said discussions will continue with other councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to gain further insight into the closure and how the effects might be countered.
“Progress is being made, there is a long road ahead but we are working together with our communities, our businesses and our partners to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for Mildenhall, for Forest Heath, for West Suffolk and for East Anglia as a whole,” he said.
The full outcome of Forest Heath’s engagement sessions will be published on the council website by Thursday, March 26.