Plymouth City Council leader Ian Bowyer is calling for the Government to urgently guarantee that 750 Royal Marines will be relocated within the city when it closes Stonehouse Barracks.
Councillor Bowyer says the economic impact on the city of losing the marines from the city could be more than £522 million over the next 25 years and this would significantly damage the city’s recovering economy.
The MoD announced earlier this week that the Royal Marine Barracks at Stonehouse, home to 3 Commando Brigade, would be disposed of as part of an estates review but it has not said where the brigade will move.
In a strongly worded letter to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Mark Lancaster, Councillor Bowyer said the Government needed be mindful of the close relationship between the City of Plymouth and the Royal Marines over the last 260 years and that Stonehouse epitomised the relationship as the oldest barracks in England.
He said: “I cannot help but feel that a peaceful accounting exercise is riding roughshod over centuries of military tradition that is held very dear by both the Royal Marines and the wider City of Plymouth.”
Councillor Bowyer said the £30m already invested in the amphibious base at RM Tamar made that site most suitable for the relocation of the Royal Marines currently based at Stonehouse.
He said: “The City expects the MOD to provide sufficient funds to ensure the 750 personnel are moved to RM Tamar in a timely manner, and that the RM Tamar’s infrastructure is sufficiently upgraded to serve its expanding role.”
Councillor Bowyer told the minister that Plymouth had already been hit hard by reductions in the defence estate over the last 30 years, including the Royal William Victualling Yard, the Naval Hospital at Stonehouse and the Mount Wise Maritime HQ, though the city had a strong track record of working with the MoD to regenerate the sites.
He said: “The City would expect that the MoD does not allow RM Stonehouse to fall into a state of disrepair, decline or dereliction whiles the process of closing the barracks is enacted. There will clearly be a need for additional funding to make RM Stonehouse ready to bring to market and the City again expects the MoD to provide this.
“Plymouth City Council has a good track record of bringing former sites to market, and of working with our partners to make them more commercially successful.”
Councillor Bowyer said Plymouth City Council would work closely with it partners and Defence Estates to ensure the opportunities for creating jobs and providing new homes for Plymouth at the Stonehouse site were maximised.