British firm will end housing contract
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A British housing development firm plans to end a leasing contract with the Air Force for homes in Newmarket and Soham to concentrate on an upcoming building project near RAF Mildenhall, a top official for the firm revealed Friday.
For the past 10 years, Persimmon Homes has leased hundreds of houses to the Air Force in Newmarket’s Studlands Park and Soham military housing areas.
The firm decided not to renew the Air Force’s lease earlier this year so it could focus on building homes, said Andrew Fuller, managing director for Persimmon’s Anglia district.
“We no longer wish to run the lease,” Fuller said by phone Friday afternoon. “We’re going to concentrate on our core, which is housing development.”
The firm will be building at the site of the old Smokehouse Hotel, next to the base in Beck Row. Persimmon, which claims to be the U.K.’s leading home builder, has received planning permission to build 150 units as part of a three-year project.
“We are due to commence construction within the next six weeks,” Fuller said.
The first homes are slated to be available by December, he added.
The firm has not reached a leasing agreement with the Air Force for the proposed homes. However, airmen could be allowed to rent a home there on a private basis, Fuller said.
Last month, RAF Lakenheath housing officials held a town hall meeting to allay concerns for the 95 Air Force families being forced out of Studlands Park and Soham before the lease expires at the end of this year.
Some private owners of those properties are in talks with the Air Force to work out individual lease agreements, said Fuller, who added that roughly 450 units are located in the two areas.
Lt. Col. Brian Murphy, 48th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, said there were concerns with the level of maintenance and repairs being carried out by the firm at Studlands Park. However, Air Force officials still wanted to use the homes.
“The Air Force was considering future plans for Studlands Park when we received notice from [Persimmon Homes] that they were not interested in renewing the lease,” he wrote Friday in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
Families have begun relocating from both areas, with all moves slated to be completed by Oct. 31.
“We recognize the hardships these situations may cause, but we are working closely with everyone involved to mitigate them,” Murphy said.