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RED LODGE, England — A former RAF Mildenhall squadron leader has joined the chorus of concern about a proposed U.S. Air Force housing development.

Noel Dunningham, who served as the squadron leader from 1972 to 1974, said he vehemently opposes the plan to build roughly 600 homes — 440 for Air Force personnel and 160 affordable homes for locals — on a tract of land adjacent to RAF Mildenhall.

“It’s unbelievably ridiculous,” Dunningham said Friday from his home roughly 15 minutes from RAF Mildenhall. “These homes are not needed and should not be built under any circumstances.”

The U.S. Air Force has contracted The Ashwell Group to build the development after a 2003 analysis determined a shortfall of roughly 600 homes for Air Force personnel around the tri-base region of RAFs Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Feltwell.

East Anglian Regional Director Bart L. Bloemhard said the development would bring hundreds of families closer to the base.

Bloemhard, a U.S. Air Force civilian employee, said roughly 2,000 of the 4,500 families that live off base currently have commutes longer than 20 minutes. He cited some people who travel as far as an hour to and from work.

Dunningham, meanwhile, became an unofficial voice of authority for a group opposing the development after an editorial he wrote appeared in the Mildenhall Journal. It not only opposed the development but called for the U.S. military to quit Britain.

“The Cold War is over,” he said. “I have absolutely no antagonism toward the Americans, but the time has come for them to go home.”

Dunningham, who has two children living in the United States and served as a fighter pilot trainer in Africa during World War II, said he is not part of the group Save Western Mildenhall, which has organized a committee to oppose the development plan.

The leadership of the ad-hoc, grass-roots organization recently met with RAF Mildenhall base leadership. Both sides said the meeting was amiable.

“I feel our recent meeting with concerned members of Save Mildenhall West was very successful,” 100th Air Refueling Wing Commander Col. Michael S. Stough said. “They were able to express their concerns and we were able to alleviate confusion regarding the base’s role in the proposed housing project.”

Save Western Mildenhall leader Odette Fussey described the meeting — held over Hershey’s Kisses and coffee — as “very placid and enjoyable.”

“They didn’t give a great deal away,” she said. “But I didn’t feel any negativity in any way. I thought it was very good of them to see us.”

Fussey said the group plans to start a Web site to promote its efforts and is planning to hold a fundraiser for survey work she contends will prove the development will overwhelm the area with traffic.

The Ashwell Group, a Cambridge-based development firm, meanwhile, did not respond to a request for information about where the company is in the process of securing the permits from the local municipality to move forward with the project. Fussey said The Ashwell Group has not replied to her request for info either.

Dunningham, for his part, said he doesn’t foresee the Forest Heath District Council signing off on the development.

“Those councilors earn a good salary and have a good pension,” he said. “Do they want to upset so many people who are obviously opposed to the plan?”


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