Swanton Morley military base to be closed as government plans to axe 56 sites in UK
- Credit: IAN BURT
Military presence in the region is set for dramatic changes after the government announced it will close several defence sites in East Anglia.
In a move which Broadland MP Keith Simpson described as 'saddening' the Robertson Barracks at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, is among the 56 bases that will shut.
RAF Barnham, just south of Thetford, is also set to be closed, following a government review of its military estates.
Two other sites in Suffolk – Rock Barracks and RAF Mildenhall – will be shut, as will sites across Essex and Cambridgeshire, defence secretary Michael Fallon said yesterday.
The news about Barnham and Mildenhall had already been revealed.
The Robertson Barracks, which used to be an Royal Air Force base, is currently home to 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards.
Under the government review the barracks has been earmarked for closure in 2031.
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The review includes plans to close all the earmarked sites by 2040.
Mr Simpson, whose constituency contained the Robertson Barracks until 2010, expressed hope that the base would not be left to ruin but instead be converted to housing.
'It's a sad day – there's no doubt about that,' he said. 'You have had a succession of regiments there and they have mixed well with the local community and enjoyed being in Norfolk.
'I don't know how many millions of pounds they bring to the local economy. But the real question is what is going to happen to the base?
'Houses are a possibility but I don't know what the local community would think of that.
My own personal view would be - better houssing than an empty debilitated place.'
The other local site earmarked for closure – RAF Barnham – is set to be shut in 2020.
It is hoped selling the sites could save £140m of running costs over the next decade.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Sir Michael said it cost £2.5bn every year to maintain the Ministry of Defence's estates, with 40pc of its built assets more than 50 years old.
'This strategy looks ahead to 2040 to provide a better defence estate,' he said.
'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.'
History of Robertson Barracks
The site used to be a Royal Airforce Base (known as RAF Swanton Morley) until 1995, when it was handed over to the British Army.
It then became Robertson's Barracks, named after first world war army head Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, and hosted the 9th/12th Royal Lancers.
The base went on to be the home of the Light Dragoons, and in 2013 the Army announced Robertson's Barracks would be one of seven sites that it would invest in.
It came a month after then Swanton Morley parish council chairman Roger Atterwill raised concerns about the future of the barracks. In 2015 the Light Dragoons regiment moved to the barracks, but they departed in July 2015 and were replaced by 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDG).
The Prince of Wales visited the barracks in February this year to meet the regiment.
Full list of closures across region
Other sites in the region thaty that will close (and the year) are:
RAF Barnham, Suffolk, (2020)
RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk (2022)
MoD Woodbridge (Rock Barracks), Ipswich (2027)
Carver Barracks, Saffron Walden (2031)
Middlewick Ranges, Colchester (2020)
RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire (2023)
RAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire (2023)