Weeton barracks to be North West’s army HQ

Weeton Barracks

Weeton Barracks

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The historic Duke of Lancaster’s regiment will be based at Weeton by 2022 at the latest, the Defence secretary said last night.

Michael Fallon announced the move as part of the closure of 56 Ministry of Defence across the UK.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon speaking in the House of Commons in London about the Ministry of Defence sites which are set to close across Britain.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon speaking in the House of Commons in London about the Ministry of Defence sites which are set to close across Britain.

The historic sites of Fulwood barracks in Preston as well as 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.

That means the HQ of the 42nd Infantry Brigade, which comprises the 2nd and 4th Battalions of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the 2nd and 4th Battalions of The Mercias, will be moved to Weeton.

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.

Preston North MP Ben Wallace, who successfully campaigned for a regular unit to be moved into the barracks two years ago, said: “I am deeply disappointed with the announcement. Fulwood Barracks is an important part of the history and culture of Preston and it is vital as a link between the local regiment and the population. The North West recruits more than 20% of the armed forces yet we are devoid of bases.

“It is an especially odd decision given a couple of years ago the MOD moved back a regular unit of the Royal Medical Corp.

“I am going to take this to the minister responsible and make a robust case to reject the closure. I shall also be approaching the Duke of York’s Regimental Association to ask for their support in battling this move.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies was not available for comment last night.

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.