Minister for the Army, Ivor Caplin, has thrown a question mark over the whole future of the Whittington Barracks. In answer to a question posed by Michael Fabricant about the future of the four main Army Training Regiment (ATR) Barracks, Ivor Caplin has revealed that the Government is currently investigating "the feasibility of closing one of the ATRs. The site that is recommended for closure would result in its recruits being reallocated to the remaining three ATRs, with some expansion at the remaining sites to create greater efficiencies in training." He further says "Any site identified for possible closure would be assessed for alternative uses within the MOD. In the event that another user could not be identified, the site would be closed."
Michael Fabricant says: "In the past when I have asked about the future of the Whittington Barracks, the Government has answered that they have no plans for closure. This answer now reveals that there hangs the serious threat of closure over one of the four Army Training Regiment Barracks which includes the Whittington Barracks near Lichfield.
"If the ATR were removed from Lichfield, every attempt must be made by the Ministry of Defence to assign another military task for Whittington. Closure of the barracks would have a disastrous economic effect on the surrounding community. It would also mean that in its tercentenary year, the Staffordshire Regiment – which itself is under threat of survival with the decision by Labour to reduce the Army from 108,000 to 102,000 soldiers – would lose its Regimental Museum which would have to be housed elsewhere.
"I am particularly concerned that the Minister says an announcement will be made in 2005. I recall that the official announcement of the closure of the Hammerwich Hospital was cynically delayed until one day after the general election. With a general election due in 2005, will it be a re-run with the Whittington Barracks?
"I hope that if it comes to it, I can count on all MPs in south Staffordshire, of whatever political party, to join together to resist any proposals to close the Whittington Barracks which are so much a part of life in our City and our County" Michael adds.
The extract from Hansard (1st November) is shown below.
Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence
(1) which bases will be used in England over the next five years for the Army Training Regiment;
(2) if he will make a statement on the future use of the army barracks at Whittington, Lichfield;
(3) what plans he has to sell land occupied by the Whittington barracks near Lichfield;
(4) whether he plans to move the Army Training Regiment for Lichfield.
Mr. Caplin: The Army Training and Recruiting Agency (ATRA) is currently conducting a study to evaluate the capacity requirements for Phase 1 soldier training and to determine the most long term economical use of the existing Phase 1 training real estate, which includes four Army Training Regiments (ATRs); ATR Bassingbourn, ATR Winchester, ATR Pirbright, ATR Lichfield and the Army Foundation College Harrogate. The study will identify and develop a range of options including the feasibility of closing one of the ATRs. No decisions have yet been reached as the study involves a detailed business case and economic appraisal to determine value for money in any restructuring of Phase 1 training. It is hoped to conclude the study early in 2005.
Any site identified for possible closure would be assessed for alternative uses within the MOD. In the event that another user could not be identified, the site would be closed. The site that is recommended for closure would result in its recruits being reallocated to the remaining three ATRs, with some expansion at the remaining sites to create greater efficiencies in training.