Campaign to save Plymouth military bases takes big step forward

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Luke Pollard’s campaign to save two of Plymouth’s key military bases has made a big step forward after the Ministry of Defence revealed they would delay the closure of two key headquarters in the city.

The Government has confirmed there will be a lengthy delay to the closure of the Royal Citadel, home of 29 Commando Royal Artillery, and a further short delay to the closure of Stonehouse Barracks, the spiritual home of the Royal Marines. The disposal of the Royal Citadel will be delayed from 2024 to 2035. RM Stonehouse will not be closed until at least 2029.

This is the second delay since Luke launched his campaign to save these bases from closure and keep the Royal Marines in Plymouth. RM Stonehouse is the Royal Marine’s first ever dedicated and purpose-built barracks, while the Royal Citadel is the permanent base of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery. Both play big roles in the community in Plymouth and make significant economic contributions to

the city.

In 2016, the MOD announced its intent to ‘dispose of Stonehouse Barracks by 2023’ which, under pressure, was later delayed to 2027 and now to 2029. Luke has continued to raise concerns about the lack of heating and hot water in some buildings at Stonehouse calling for investment and a clear plan for keeping the Royal Marines in Plymouth.

The Government has been criticised for under-investing in RM Stonehouse, which has left the base in a poor, dilapidated condition. The Government has committed to disposal of the sites, but defence minister for procurement Jeremy Quin wrote to Luke, explaining the delays will give ‘greater certainty to both the commando units’, as the time will be used to look for a new site.

Since being elected, Luke has repeatedly called for the Government to end the uncertainty over Stonehouse barracks and commit to keeping the Royal Marines in Plymouth. He has questioned Ministers in the Commons, organised Parliamentary debates and also campaigned for Stonehouse barracks to be refurbished so that all accommodation blocks have hot water and good heating.

In January 2019, Luke led a debate in Parliament on the basing arrangements of the Royal Marines, where he warned that ‘the lack of clarity’ around RM Stonehouse was ‘hurting morale’. Luke added: “Falling morale hits the ability of both the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines to recruit and retain the very best.”

Luke said: “I want to see the Royal Marines and 29 Commando stay in Plymouth. To do that the Government needs to invest in both the Citadel and the Stonehouse Barracks.

‘They keep postponing the closure dates, but the truth is they need to modernise these bases and invest in the buildings and facilities there. Ministers simply cannot expect our service personnel to live and work in deteriorating conditions over such a long period of time.

‘I hope that with these extra delays, the MOD will rightly conclude, as most of Plymouth has, that these bases are in the right place for 29 Commando and the Royal Marines. We now need to see money spent on modernisation so the very best in our military have the very best accommodation and facilities too.”

Chris Penberthy, Councillor for St Peter and the Waterfront Ward, said: “The Citadel and Stonehouse Barracks are both important to the life of Plymouth and the communities within which they are based.

‘I welcome the announcement today. However, for the marines in Stonehouse Barracks we now need investment in facilities to ensure that their living and working conditions are bought up to a decent standard.

‘My long-term hope is that both the Citadel and Stonehouse Barracks retain their current uses.”

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