Housing, community hub and RAF Mildenhall among priorities for re-elected council leader

Cllr David Bimson, the new chairman of Forest Heath, and vice chairman Carol Lynch ANL-150528-123727001
Cllr David Bimson, the new chairman of Forest Heath, and vice chairman Carol Lynch ANL-150528-123727001
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The re-elected leader of Forest Heath District Council says housing, the future of the soon to close RAF Mildenhall and developing a major community hub are among his priorities.

Cllr James Waters was re-elected unanimously to head-up the authority over the next four years and has chosen a new cabinet.

He said the council’s ‘challenges and opportunities’ in the coming years include the future of RAF Mildenhall which is due to close from 2019, the expanson of RAF Lakenheath and progressing the Mildenhall Hub.

The £59 million hub aims to combine the council, police, Mildenhall College Academy, leisure and health facilities and around 1,000 sq m of employment space onto one or two sites.

Cllr Waters has held off appointing a cabinet member responsible for housing so the authority can take a ‘more joined up appproach across West Suffolk’ to deliver its housing strategy and invest in new homes. He said: “It also recognises that this is a big and strategic cross-cutting issue for Forest Heath that needs the input of all cabinet portfolios. Instead, I will ask the whole of the Forest Heath Cabinet to be involved in leading this agenda, through joint cabinet meetings with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and St Edmundsbury Councillor, Sara Mildmay-White, has agreed to act as the lead councillor on this issue for West Suffolk to guide us through that process.”

Housing is among the council’s three core priorities which include ‘promoting economic growth’ and ‘strong communities’. Cllr Waters, who will also be cabinet member for planning and growth, said: “We are also going to drive devolution with Suffolk County Council and Whitehall which simply means more power and funding to our local areas, delivering more for less.”

In the cabinet, Cllr Robin Millar is deputy leader and responsible for families and communities; Cllr David Bowman is member for operations; Cllr Andy Drummond will oversee leisure and culture and Cllr Stephen Edwards takes on finance and performance.

Cllr Waters paid tribute to Cllrs Rona Burt and Nigel Roman, who have stepped down from the cabinet. He also thanked Warwick Hirst who served as cabinet member for health, leisure and culture.

Cllr David Bimson has been elected as chairman and Cllr Colin Noble chairman of the performance and audit scrutiny committee. West Suffolk Independent Cllr Simon Cole was made chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee. He said it is the first time the opposition group has held the role at Forest Heath.