The Bishop of Chester has spoken in the House of Lords of the Government’s plans to sell off the Dale Barracks army camp in Chester.
In a House of Commons statement, the Government revealed it will sell off another 56 defence sites by 2040, in addition to the sale of 35 MoD sites previously announced.
The 2nd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment, which deployed on three operational tours to Afghanistan, has also been based at the Dale in Liverpool Road, Upton, since July 2014.
At the House of Lords on Tuesday (November 8), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Earl Howe, repeated a statement on the Government’s strategy for the future of the Defence Estate.
Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon insists the changes will deliver better value for money by saving £140m over the next decade and releasing enough land to build 55,000 homes.
The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, queried the impact the sale of the Dale Barracks would have on armed forces recruitment.
He said: “My Lords, I follow the point made by the previous noble Lord by asking about recruitment.
“I notice that Dale Barracks in Chester are on the hit list.
“That has been a centre of recruitment for the Cheshire regiment over the years.
“It is hardly a small and remote site, as referred to in the report.
“Now the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment is pretty much based there.
“How is recruitment to the Armed Forces likely to be affected by this withdrawal from a large number of sites, where the association with the Army or the Navy or Air Force, for that matter goes back a very long way?”
Earl Howe said they want a ‘better deal for families’ and hopes in the coming years ‘the personnel of our armed forces’ will see it in the same way.
He said: “The concentration of sites that I have been talking about plays into recruitment in the round because the more stable and confident armed services personnel and their families feel about their roots and where they are, the more we are likely to see a better performance in recruitment and retention.
“The problem with some of these sites - I do not necessarily include the one referred to by the right reverend Prelate - is that they are remote, do not play into the recruitment agenda very easily, and certainly not the retention agenda, and they are not conducive to spousal employment either.
“We want a better deal for families in the round, and I hope that over the next few years, as this programme rolls out, the personnel of our armed forces will see it in the same way.”
On Monday (November 7), The Chronicle reported Chester MP Chris Matheson will fight plans to sell off Dale Barracks army camp that would sever the city’s major link with the military.
He told The Chronicle: “I’m not having it. We have been a garrison city for centuries.”
However, Mr Matheson said the former RAF Sealand base, now occupied by The Defence Electronics and Components Agency (DECA), is to become a global repair hub for the European-based F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.