Part of Copthorne Barracks to be sold off as jobs move to Telford
[gallery] Part of Shrewsbury's historic Copthorne Barracks is to be sold off, with about 80 military and civilian jobs moving to Telford.
The headquarters of 143 (West Midlands) Brigade, based at the Copthorne Road barracks, will move to Donnington, home of 11 Signal Brigade during 2015.
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski today revealed he is to hold urgent talks with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond about the move.
He said:?"I am deeply saddened by the announcement. Shrewsbury has a long history of hosting the army and I am very concerned as to what this will mean for the town.
"Philip Hammond has agreed to meet with me and the Leaders of Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council to discuss what would be an appropriate future use of the site to maximise local prosperity and jobs.
"I will also be seeking assurance from the Minister that there will be provision for TA reservists in Shrewsbury going forward."
The future for the Territorial Army unit and other smaller units based at the barracks has not yet been decided, but Army chiefs have admitted they could also move out – potentially resulting in the full closure of the Copthorne base. Last year more than 130 military and civilian jobs were lost when the MoD closed its divisional Army HQ at the site.
The 143 (West Midlands) Brigade, which is responsible for the Army's regional regiments, has been based at Copthorne in its current form since 1987. However, the regular Army's presence in the town dates back to 1877.
Brigadier Gerhard Wheeler CBE, commander of 143 (West Midlands) Brigade,said:?"It is sad news that 143 Brigade headquarters will be leaving Shrewsbury after such a long association with the town but the Army's priority must be to focus its resources on its front line troops.
"As the Regular Army reduces in size it will need fewer headquarters. The Defence Infrastructure Organization will work closely with the local authorities to ensure that the future of Copthorne Barracks meets the needs of the local community.
"The provision for reservists in Shrewsbury is important to us and will be considered as part of the Army's reserve basing study.
"Whatever the final decision, the Army will endeavour to continue to maintain its strong bonds with Shrewsbury."
Councillor Peter Nutting, Shropshire councillor for Copthorne, said the announcement was the end of the town's historic military presence.
He said: "It was a garrison town and this is the last of the real Army presence. It has been gradually disappearing and this is the end."
However, the news has been welcomed by the Telford borough's two MPs Mark Pritchard and David Wright, who said it was crucial the base was supported.
Mr Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, said: "I am delighted that more rather than less defence personnel are coming to Donnington.
"This is good news for the Telford & Wrekin constituency."
Telford MP Mr Wright said: "This is a movement of jobs within the county, but it is good news that we are seeing a consolidation of defence activity in Donnington."
Donnington has been home to an Army base since the early 20th century, with housing being built in the 1930s for workers at the then new Donnington British Army Ordnance Depot.
It later became MOD Donnington, and was once one of the largest military stores in Europe, but it has declined in both importance and size since the end of the Cold War.
The move comes as part of a reorganisation amid plans to speed up the return of British troops from bases in Germany.
Mr Hammond said an extra £20 million would be spent to develop Army bases in the Midlands – with the money used to provide better accommodation for troops and their families.
He said: "By setting out our plans to bring troops back to the UK we are not only providing service personnel with greater stability for their future but also generating a saving of around £240m a year in operational running costs.
"We are also going to invest an additional £1.8 billion in our new basing plan, providing investment around the country, crucial jobs for local economies and the best possible accommodation for our soldiers and their families.
"This work helps ensure the British Army remains the most capable Army in its class."
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