Council leader calls for rethink on leaked plans to cut Devonport ships

Plymouth City Council leader Ian Bowyer is calling for the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary to re-think leaked proposals to cut-Devonport based amphibious ships.

Councillor Bowyer has written to Theresa May and Michael Fallon MP warning that potential plans to decommission HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark could have a serious impact on the city’s economy.

He said the maintenance and refit programmes for both ships provide a significant number of high quality jobs both directly and through the supply chain, while many of the 350 personnel aboard each ship have families who have settled in Plymouth.

The Dockyard, Naval Base and associated marine related industries account for around 16 per cent of Plymouth’s economic output.

“Devonport Naval Base is absolutely fundamental to Plymouth’s economy and community, as well as to its identity and history,” Councillor Bowyer said. “The loss of these ships from the fleet would have a direct and profound impact on us.”

Councillor Bowyer said Devonport had a growing expertise in nuclear technologies that was valuable to the UK economy, while the city was developing as a centre for marine excellence and was host to the first Marine Enterprise Zone.

“We risk losing our focus as a centre of excellence in marine expertise, which in turn will mean companies are less likely to bring investment here,” he said. “It is therefore imperative that you resolve this issue quickly to provide the confidence our businesses need.”

Councillor Bowyer said the leaked plans were deeply concerning as they came on top of ongoing speculation about the future numbers of Royal Marines that could be based in the city following announcement of plans to close the Royal Marine base in Stonehouse.

Despite assurances last year that the Government’s plan was to consolidate the South West’s Royal Marine estate around Plymouth and to further develop an Amphibious Centre of Excellence, Councillor Bowyer said he was now “deeply concerned” that this might not happen.

He said: “We are determined to continue to fight for the best outcome for Plymouth and to safeguard the city’s future, and will continue to press for assurances from Government to commit to Devonport Dockyard and Naval Base as the preferred base port for the Royal Navy’s amphibious capability.”