REACTION: American announcement to close USAF bases is ‘very sad’ and ‘disappointing’ - Huntingdonshire MPs
- Credit: Archant
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly has described the United States Air Force’s announcement to move from two Huntingdonshire RAF bases as “very sad”.
Today, the Pentagon in America is to reveal as part of a Europe-wide review of its bases that it will relocate its operations at RAF Alconbury and Molesworth to RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire.
The move was initially revealed in 2013 by The Hunts Post, and again in May last year.
The closure is intended to take place between 2017 and 2023.
Approximately 1,300 of the 1,900 US service personnel are due to transfer to RAF Croughton.
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It is thought that in the region of 300 UK jobs will be impacted, of which, some two thirds are MoD employees.
Mr Djanogly said: “With over 70 years of US personnel being stationed at our local bases and with all of the resulting close bonds with our US friends and allies, it will be very sad to see the US leave.
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“In addition the bases, with their tens of millions of pounds of investment in the local economy will certainly be missed in the short term, although the four-to-five-year timescale should enable a transitional period.
“However, we can be pleased that at least they are relocating in the UK rather than abroad as was previously feared.
“We had heard rumours of a potential move last year and I had written to the US Secretary of State for Defense and the American Ambassador in London asking that they reconsider any decision to move from Alconbury. Unfortunately, the move is now happening and the important thing now is to make the best of the situation.
“I have heard that the Department for BIS is setting up a joint task force to look at the two sites plus RAF Mildenhall which is also being closed. The task force will be engaging with the relevant local authorities shortly on supporting affected staff and reviewing the best future use for the sites.
“Importantly, we should appreciate that the Alconbury site is situated next to the Alconbury Enterprise Zone and that this is very much a growth area within the constituency. Hopefully the US departure will provide an opportunity to integrate the residential, leisure and health facilities that exist on the base into the area’s wider growth proposals.
“I met the Secretary of State for Defence today to have a preliminary discussion on the proposals and he has agreed to meet again shortly together with the leader of the district council. It is clearly important that we make proper provisions for the staff concerned and look towards maximising the potential of these important sites.”
Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, added: “These bases are an integral part of our community and so this is deeply disappointing. I have already spoken with Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, and asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the matter further.
“It is important to remember that the individuals affected also have families and so the personal consequences will be considerable.
“Moreover, there will be a significant impact on the local economy which the British and American personnel help to sustain.”
Councillor Jason Ablewhite, executive leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: “This is an exceptionally sad day for Huntingdonshire; this announcement marks the end of a 72-year-long, strong and positive relationship with our American cousins.
“These closures will entail the loss of 760 personnel and 1,500 civilian jobs and so the impact on the Huntingdonshire economy could be considerable.
“However, the Enterprise Zone is on the same site as RAF Alconbury, and will provide thousands of jobs over the coming years. Additionally, the development of the Joint Intelligence Forces Group at RAF Wyton could see an increase in the number of personnel and creation of civilian jobs.
“Huntingdonshire District Council will continue to support sustainable growth and employment opportunities.”
Richard Howitt MEP said: “I am saddened by the RAF Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth closures being announced today and have always appreciated the courtesy of USAF personnel.