Ministry of Defence to vacate ten more sites as department seeks to shrink estate

Latest batch of MoD land disposals will "make the defence estate more efficient and better suited to the needs of our armed forces", says minister Mark Lancaster

By matt.foster

29 Mar 2016

The Ministry of Defence has unveiled plans to vacate ten more sites across the UK, as it presses ahead with its aim of cutting the size of its built estate by 30%.

The MoD is one of the UK's largest landowners, with its holdings accounting for about 2% of the British mainland and valued at £29.7bn. In 2011, the department set up the Defence Infrastrucuture Organisation (DIO) to oversee the consolidation of its built and rural estate, and the department is set to publish a wide-ranging "Footprint Strategy" later this year.

Ahead of that plan, defence minister Mark Lancaster has announced the disposal of ten sites, including core MoD sites at Wethersfield and Cheadle Hulme.

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"Every pound we make by disposing of excess land will be reinvested into a defence budget that keeps Britain safe," he said. "It will make the defence estate more efficient and better suited to the needs of our armed forces. And it will help thousands of people to own their own home."

The other sites set to be vacated by the MoD are Thornhill Barracks in Aldershot; Burgoyne Barracks in Folkestone; Clive Barracks in Shropshire; Fitz Wygram House in Aldershot; the Army Officer Selection Board Westbury in Wiltshire; Defence Training Estate land near Cove; Rylston Road ARC in London; and Chetwynd Barracks in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire.

The latest Strategic Defence and Security Review – published late last year – committed the MoD to reducing its built estate by 30%, and said it would release public sector land "for 55,000 new homes to support wider prosperity objectives". 

MPs have expressed some scepticism over the government's ability to deliver homes on sold-off land, however, with a recent report by the Public Accounts Committee saying it had relied on "wishful thinking" and could not say "how many of these homes now exist – or ever will exist". That followed a review by the National Audit Office spending watchdog which found that while government had disposed of enough land for an expected 109,950 homes, departments did not "routinely monitor" what happened to that land after it was disposed of.

The ongoing MoD estate reduction comes as the ministry seeks to cut the size of its civilian workforce by 30% over the course of the parliament.

The Prospect union, whose members include specialists working for the MoD, said it had met DIO representatives "to understand the footprint strategy and how it will be managed".

"We have expressed our concern about the impact of the site closures," the union said in a statement.

"The sites included in today’s announcement will be released for non-MoD use by 2020 at the latest, with some earmarked to go by 2020. Prospect is already in dialogue with MoD and DIO regarding the footprint strategy, how disposals will be managed, and how the impact on civilian staff will be mitigated. We will keep members informed as plans become clearer."

The MoD will shortly come under new leadership, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change's permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove set to take over from current MoD perm sec Jon Thompson, who is moving to lead HM Revenue & Customs.

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