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Wiltshire prepares for Army relocation and new town bigger than Radstock

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

By Tristan Cork

Soldiers on a medal at barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire. The MoD has released its masterplan for housing as thousands of troops prepare for relocation from Germany to Salisbury Plain

Soldiers on a medal at barracks in Tidworth, Wiltshire. The MoD has released its masterplan for housing as thousands of troops prepare for relocation from Germany to Salisbury Plain

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Military chiefs set out last night exactly how thousands of soldiers and thousands more in their families will be accommodated when they move back to the West in the next five years.

The army and council chiefs will have to create the equivalent of a town bigger than Radstock to cope with some 4,300 soldiers and 3,300 more partners and children, when military units are brought back from Germany and based in one corner of the West.

Yesterday, the MoD finally published its 'Draft Masterplan', which will see existing garrison towns around Amesbury in Wiltshire transformed with thousands more troops.

A major public meeting has been scheduled for next week to give locals the chance to have their say and question the decisions that have seen Larkhill, Bulford, Tidworth and Ludgershall chosen as the sites for the massive increase in army presence.

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The 59-page Masterplan went on display in local libraries yesterday, and was published online, and gives the public and council chiefs the chance to see what they must expect in terms of planning applications in the next year or two.

The MoD announced the withdrawal of soldiers and closures of former Cold War bases in Germany would happen more quickly than previously planned as part of the reorganisation of the army before 2020. The Masterplan was published yesterday after a first draft sparked hundreds of comments – although the vast majority of them concerned one corner of the proposed new barracks at Larkhill that would be built on the spot where the sun rises on the north-eastern horizon when viewed from Stonehenge at the time of summer solstice.

The MoD confirmed in the Masterplan that they had changed the location of buildings there, to take that into account, and said they would work closely with Wiltshire Council and English Heritage to site the other new homes sensitively.

The massive military housing boom on the edge of Salisbury Plain will be taken into account in Wiltshire's stuttering Core Strategy, which has been sent back by Government planners, who ordered the county to find sites for 4,000 more homes.

That has sparked a collapse in the planning system in Wiltshire, with county planners declaring they are no longer able to fight appeals against developers who claim the county does not have an adequate supply of housing sites over the next five years.

The Ministry of Defence said it would be pumping £800 million into the Amesbury area Masterplan, and its planning applications would be co-ordinated.

"The proposals for Salisbury Plain provide a unique opportunity to balance the military and civilian communities," the Masterplan document said.

"The integration of both the existing and incoming military new housing provision will be in addition to the housing requirement in the 'Wiltshire Core Strategy'.

"The scale of incoming personnel at Larkhill is especially recognised as an opportunity to reinvigorate existing communities," it added.

Council and military chiefs will host a special meeting next Wednesday evening at the Tidworth Garrison theatre to hear from existing residents.

"This meeting is the latest step in ensuring our communities are kept fully informed about developments so we are ready for the changes ahead," said council leader Jane Scott.

"Our partnership working with the DIO and Army has been key in all of this work and we will continue to engage with communities to ensure that we have the services in place for the whole community so that Army families feel welcome and we maximise on the economic opportunities that the re-basing brings," she added.

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