Defence | Suffolk and West Suffolk, RAF Mildenhall

This is the seventh case study in One Public Estate's 'Unlocking the value in public sector assets', published in 2017.

Region: East, South East
Theme: Integrated public services, Defence

The challenge

In January 2015 the US Department of Defense confirmed American forces (USVF) will withdraw from RAF Mildenhall by 2023. They also announced that RAF Lakenheath, four miles north of RAF Mildenhall, would expand with new jets and USVF personnel. As a result of one base closing and the other expanding, there could be a net loss of around 2,000 on-base jobs and it is believed that around 300 of these would be UK civilian jobs.

Following the announcement, there was concern amongst local residents and businesses about the implications of the announcement on the local economy and local housing market. There were also concerns regarding the future use of the 440 hectare RAF Mildenhall site which is owned by the Ministry of Defence. Local partners are keen to work with the Government on a collaborative response so that the significant opportunities of RAF Mildenhall are not lost.

The vision

The aim of the Mildenhall place-shaping project is to offer an OPE exemplar in a rural setting which has the potential to deliver local/national growth aspirations for thousands of jobs and/or homes through the preparation of deliverable long-term plans for the future of RAF Mildenhall when USVF leave in the 2020s.


As part of their response, local partners set out the desire for a proactive approach to the regeneration of RAF Mildenhall within the Mildenhall Place-Shaping Project, supported by funding through the One Public Estate programme to develop a local vision for the site.

Local organisations have been working together on a plan for the site and, following public consultation, the RAF Mildenhall prospectus was published in December 2016. The prospectus builds on a market assessment of potential uses for the site and outlines the local ambition to transform RAF Mildenhall into a mixed use, sustainable community with opportunities for jobs and industry. A housing development on the site would improve viability and ease pressure on the regional housing market.

Building on strong engagement with the Government that has developed since the announcement in 2015, a partnership approach between local organisations, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Homes and Communities Agency is being developed to progress a joint work programme which will drive the project forward. 


The prospectus showed the potential of the site in regard to employment and housing. The final decision regarding detailed land uses requires much more work. The housing and job creation estimates are early indications, ahead of detailed site condition work and dependent on provision of supporting infrastructure. Next steps Follow-on OPE funding and support will be sought to address key areas, which may include:

  • funding and/or access to appropriate specialist expertise to assess possible delivery vehicles, delivery mechanisms and funding routes to consider and take forward the development of an effective governance model and delivery structure
  • further development of the business plan for potential aviation uses.

Local partners will be working with the Homes and Communities Agency and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to explore the potential for joint working and anticipate developing a joint bid