HC Deb 24 July 2000 vol 354 cc376-8W
Mr. Olner

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future basing plans for the Army. [131152]

Mr. Spellar

I am now able to give details of our plans for the future basing of units following the Strategic Defence Review restructuring. Since my predecessor published outline basing proposals last year, we have discussed the implications of these changes with the local authorities concerned. We have also, as part of our commitment under SDR to put the environment at the heart of decision making, subjected our proposals to a rigorous examination as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the whole of the SDR. The SEA has confirmed that the Army's plans for barrack redevelopment, which flow from the relocation and re-roling of units, are unlikely to have major effects on the environment. Where a potential impact has been identified we have either already changed our plans accordingly or plan to take the necessary action to address the problem as part of our detailed development proposals.

The changes from the outline proposals announced last year are not in themselves substantial. However, they do provide the Army with a firm basis on which to plan for changes in the roles of units and their parent formations and for a number of relocations of units, all of which are necessary to bring about a more balance operational and training cycle.

The Headquarters of 12 Mechanised Brigade has formed in Aldershot and that of 16 Air Assault Brigade in Colchester. Aldershot Garrison will house enhancements to 101 Logistic Brigade, including 10 Transport Regiment RLC which will move from Colchester, and the lighter elements of 12 Mechanised Brigade. We intend to keep the overall position in the Garrison under review as Project Connaught, the PPP Project, develops.

Tidworth Garrison will accommodate an additional armoured regiment, armoured infantry battalion and engineer regiment, required for 12 Mechanised Brigade. Sixteen Close Support Medical Squadron will be moved out of Tidworth to be incorporated into three Close Support Medical Regiment, in Catterick. We are still considering the most appropriate location for the additional artillery regiment, which we originally planned to accommodate in Larkhill. Project Allenby, the PPP Project, is currently scoping the potential for this regiment to be based in Tidworth or Bulford Garrison instead, as part of its overall strategic look at the operational requirement.

Catterick Garrison will accommodate a number of additional units and enhancements as follows: an additional field workshop will form part of five Battalion REME. Eight Transport Regiment RLC will be enhanced and its fuel handling capabilities rationalised. Three Close Support Medical Regiment, which provides medical support to three (UK) Division, will also be based in Catterick. It will incorporate 24 Close Support Medical Squadron, which is already based in Catterick, 16 Close Support Medical Squadron, which will move from Tidworth, a new close support medical squadron and an evacuation squadron.

Thirty-eight Engineer Regiment in Claro Barracks, Ripon will be enhanced by the addition of a Close Support Squadron. However the nine very heavy tracked bridge laying vehicles with which the Squadron will be equipped could cause a high environmental risk to the cultural heritage in Ripon town centre, and undesirable traffic congestion. We have therefore decided to locate these vehicles at Cambrai/Megiddo Barracks, Catterick.

Colchester Garrison will be the main garrison for 16 Air Assault Brigade, although the aviation regiments and one of its infantry battalions will be based elsewhere and the engineer regiment will be located at Woodbridge. Two parachute regiments and a parachute artillery regiment will be based in Colchester, replacing the existing airmobile units.

The 4th armoured reconnaissance unit will be based in Stanley Barracks, Bovington. Dalton Barracks, Abingdon will house additional sub-units for both 3 Close Support Regiment RLC and 4 General Support Regiment RLC.

Some moves are already taking place (such as that of two parachute battalions from Aldershot to Colchester with a corresponding move of two infantry battalions from Colchester to form part of the new 12 Mechanised Brigade). Most unit relocations will however have to await the preparation and refurbishment of accommodation, which will be spread over a number of years, and the usual Notice of Proposed Development process. In carrying out this work we shall take every opportunity to provide our military personnel with the sort of modern, efficient, good quality accommodation which they deserve.