Belfast Telegraph

Sir Michael Fallon sets out 56 Ministry of Defence sites set for closure

Fifty-six Ministry of Defence sites are set to close across the UK by 2040, the Defence Secretary has said.

The historic sites of Fort George in Scotland and Brecon Barracks in Wales are among the sites due to be disposed of by the Government, under a review of its estate.

Sir Michael Fallon said the estate is too big and costly to run, and releasing the land could enable the building of up to 55,000 new homes.

But the SNP warned the closure of eight sites north of the border risked "savaging" Scotland's defence presence.

Three sites will also be sold in Wales and Northern Ireland, with more than 32,000 acres of land due to be released across the country.

Announcing the closures in the Commons, Sir Michael said: "This strategy looks ahead to 2040 to provide a better defence estate.

"An estate that supports a more efficient and effective military capability, an estate that gives our armed forces a world class base from which to work, and an estate that helps defence keep Britain safe and to promote our prosperity."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) estate currently covers nearly 2% of the UK's land area.

Sir Michael told MPs it costs £2.5 billion a year to maintain, and 40% of the MoD's built assets are more than 50 years old.

It is hoped selling the sites could save £140 million of running costs over the next decade.

Sir Michael said the strategy is part of efforts to consolidate military units, as well as moving them closer to population centres, to provide access to jobs and facilities for families.

But SNP defence spokesman Brendan O'Hara condemned the closure plans.

He said: "While we have been primed to expect big reductions in Scotland's defence footprint, having now heard the statement, I fear that when a Government department tries to spin cutbacks as being investment concentrated in fewer, better locations what they are actually saying is 'prepare for a savaging of what remains of Scotland's defence footprint'."

Mr O'Hara said it would be "absolutely unacceptable if once again Scotland's service personnel and our conventional defence capability has been hollowed out and sold off because of this Government's obsession with nuclear weapons".

Sir Michael rejected Mr O'Hara's concerns as he said the Government is investing in defence infrastructure north of the border, including increasing employment on the Clyde from 6,800 to 8,200.

He said: "That is not savaging Scotland. That is investing in Scotland."

Last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) outlined the MoD's aim to reduce the size of its estate by 30% before 2040.

The latest announcement takes the number of sites due to be closed to 91.

Among the other sites due to be sold are parts of Britain's largest Army garrison - Catterick in North Yorkshire - as well as Invicta Park Barracks in Maidstone and Imphal Barracks in York.

Sir Michael said the changes would mean the Royal Navy remained focused on port bases and naval stations.

MPs heard that surface ships would be based in Portsmouth and Devonport, with all the United Kingdom's submarines based on the Clyde.

There will be a specialist amphibious centre in the South West, based around Devonport, with helicopters based at Yeovilton and Culdrose.

Sir Michael added the Army would have "specialised infantry" at Aldershot, mechanised wheel capability in Catterick, air assault forces in Colchester, armoured vehicle units around Salisbury Plain, medical services in the West Midlands and hubs of light infantry battalions in London, Edinburgh, Lisburn, St Athan, Blackpool and Cottesmore.

In the RAF, combat units will remain in Coningsby, Marham and Lossiemouth, with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services remaining in Waddington.

Air transport will be based at Brize Norton, force protection will be based at Honington, and support enablers will be based at Wittering and Leeming.

In Scotland, eight sites will be released over the next 15 years, Sir Michael said.

He said investment in specialised centres would focus on Lossiemouth, Faslane and Leuchars, and Kinloss will be retained.

In Wales, the estate will be brought together into "capability clusters", Sir Michael said, with a specialist light infantry centre at St Athan.

In Northern Ireland, three sites will be released and the remaining operations will be centred on larger centres of population, he added.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said Labour recognised "there is a need to modernise" the defence estate.

She said: "The Government is right to seek to restructure the estate to ensure that we optimise our military capability and deliver value for money for the British taxpayer.

"The changes proposed in this report are very considerable in scale and there is a real need to ensure they are delivered in a way that does not cause undue challenges to our forces and their families."

Ms Griffith also sought assurances that the money raised through the sale of sites would be kept by the Ministry of Defence rather than going to the Treasury.


From Belfast Telegraph