Huntingdonshire MP seeks assurances on future of US Airforce bases
- Credit: Archant
ASSURANCES over the future of RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth are still being sought by Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly.
Last week’s Hunts Post revealed that the US Airforce was considering its future at the bases as part of cost-cutting measures, which could see personnel moved to RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire.
As a result, Mr Djanogly wrote to departing US Commander Colonel Michael Reiner seeking confirmation about the sites’ future.
His letter was forwarded to Squadron Leader Clive Wood, the RAF Commander at Alconbury, who confirmed the official line – that the US Airforce was considering ways to reduce costs and was looking at “all possibilities” for its UK bases.
Mr Djanogly said: “I don’t think the response takes us much further, other than them not coming out and saying what is going to happen. I have separately spoken with Ministry of Defence Ministers who are checking things out.”
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People whose businesses and organisations have benefited from RAF Alconbury – thought to be worth £40million a year to the local economy – have spoken about the changes they have witnessed over the years.
Kevin Hegarty, sales manager at Steve’s Cars, in Ermine Street, opposite the base, said the majority of its business was once generated by US personnel.
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“It used to be, 10 years ago, 90 per cent of what we did. It’s 50-50 now. You used to get 200 or 300 coming over at a time. They had no transport and their first port of call was us.
“They would jump in a rental from us, drive that around and usually end up buying it.”
Civilian contractors employed at the base were still one of the firm’s biggest customers so if the Americans were to pull out, he said, it would not have a huge impact on trade.
There was a similar story at The Stukeleys Country Hotel, in Great Stukeley.
Claire Richards, manageress for 13 years, said the base still accounted for about half of her trade.
“It used to be heaving, mostly with forces people eating and drinking,” she said. “They have got the Stukeley Inn on base and if that was full of people then they would come down here. Now, we still probably get at least one lot in a day eating.”
Significant numbers of Americans were regulars at Grace Fellowship Baptist Church, in Ermine Street, which was built in the 1980s by crews from RAF Alconbury.
Penny Bourne, the church’s secretary, said: “We used to have congregations of 120 going back eight or nine years. The church was very much impacted upon when they took the planes out and the base became very much smaller.”
Mrs Bourne said the close links with the US meant many people mistakenly believed the church belonged to the base.
“We’re still suffering from the fact that folk don’t understand we’re a church open to anyone.”
The congregation numbers have dwindled to about 10 or 12, she said. “We’re praying for the new building going on at the old airfield because, hopefully, that will bring new people in.”