07:40 Tuesday 19th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: The sale of RAF’s Alconbury and Molesworth sites for housing will bring challenges. This is according to the Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. Let’s hear from Jason Ablewhite now. (TAPE)
JASON ABLEWHITE: The Government has an aspiration to deliver housing on Molesworth. If you look at it geographically in our district it’s right on the edge. It is 15 miles from Huntingdon. It’s about 10 miles from Thrapston which is its nearest conurbation in Northamptonshire. And it really would be a stand-alone in the middle of nowhere development. And to make that sustainable with the access challenges of bringing that sort of development to that site out on the A14 brings us huge huge challenges. (LIVE)
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well Jason Ablewhite’s comments there come after the Ministry of Defence announced the sale of those RAF sites along with Mildenhall in Suffolk. 12 bases in total are being sold, and the Government says the disposal will generate £500 million, providing land for around 15,000 new homes. Tim Alban is the district councillor for Stilton ward on Huntingdonshire District Council. Morning Tim.
TIM ALBAN: Morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What’s your reaction then to this news? Do you share Jason’s concerns?
TIM ALBAN: Yes I do. It really is going to be a challenge for us. My last understanding as a fairly newly elected district councillor was that Molesworth at least and possibly Alconbury were going to be taken over by the UK military when the Americans leave. And I think the District Council was prepared for that. But this really is a change, and it really is going to present challenges, both in terms of planning and also access to the A14.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And what do you mean with regard to the A14?
TIM ALBAN: Well if you look at Northstowe, what’s proposed, that’s a longer term plan. It’s nearer to Cambridge. There’s access already incorporated as I understand it, into bringing the Northstowe development having a decent access to the A14. Molesworth just is a single track road at the moment around three villages, Molesworth, Brington, Old Weston, and I think that’s going to put real pressures on any development, and potentially on the villages around there.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So serious concerns about infrastructure, and the pressure that it could add to roads and suchlike. How do you feel about the fact that these bases, which have been part of the fabric of Huntingdonshire for years and years and years, are just going to disappear and become housing developments?
TIM ALBAN: In some ways I feel sad. My gran, when my granddad died, part of her house she used to rent out to local American service personnel who wanted to live off-base. I grew up in the 1960s, early ’70s, having honorary American aunties and uncles, as a lot of people did round here, because families rented out property, rented out rooms, to service personnel. And that still goes on today. And that will be a real change when those bases shut, and when the Americans go. And now as we’ve found out our own military personnel aren’t going to come. But I’m realistic to know that life has changed. We’re not in the Cold War. We don’t face the same pressures in terms of defence that we used to. My one concern is really, or my major concern, is there’s the housing, but there’s also the effects on the economy. And the good thing is though, we’ve got plenty of time to try and come up with how we can work best to mitigate the changes. We’ve got four years more. It’s not as if it’s come at very short notice and things are going to happen next year. So my hope is we can work as a district council, as Jason said, to face those challenges, work with the Ministry of Defence. Mark Lancaster the Minister who made that announcement yesterday used to be a district councillor for the area that now covers the Molesworth base, so I’m hopeful he will give us a decent tiering.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. Tim, really good to talk to you this morning. Thank you for your time. Tim Alban there, who is a district councillor for Stilton ward in Huntingdonshire.