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Reprieved Bicester barracks in line for £10m revamp
Soldiers from 23 Pioneer Regiment parade through Bicester in 2009 after being awarded their Afghanistan campaign medals at St David’s Barracks
UP TO £10m could be invested in a Bicester barracks after it was saved this week from the Government’s defence cuts.
St David’s Barracks had been under threat of closure after its home regiment, 23 Pioneer Regiment, was axed.
But on Tuesday the Government confirmed two new regiments would move in at Graven Hill by 2016.
Defence Minister Phillip Hammond said 1 Close Support Regiment, which is returning from Germany, will move to the site by 2016, and 241 Signal Squadron will also be based there by 2014.
The 1 Close Support Regiment contains about 500 soldiers who serve on the front line, moving units around and providing equipment support.
The 241 Signal Squadron is only about 100 strong and works with radio transmissions and information gathering.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Chris Fletcher said: “The investment would be not more than £10m.”
The cash would go on new building work and refurbishing technical buildings at the site.
Last summer the MoD announced the 600-strong 23 Pioneer Regiment, which has been based at St David’s in some form since 1941, would be disbanded by 2015.
The MoD has moved to allay any fears that the barracks could be left with a low number of troops on site and could have an impact on education and local businesses.
Mr Fletcher said details of when troops were due to leave was not available, but it would be a “gradual” process.
He said: “It will be a continual pair-down of 23 Pioneer working simultaneously with the Signal Squadron.
“I can’t see the barracks being left for months and months with only a handful of people. It will be a gradual replacement.”
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “We are waiting for further detail about numbers of children of service families who may be leaving Bicester and who could be arriving in the area from 2014 onwards – this information will enable us to plan for the future provision of education for children in the area.”
Cherwell District Council leader Barry Wood welcomed the cash boost at the base. He said: “The Army will want to firm up their investment plans for St David’s Barracks to make sure they remain first class.
“The council is keen to help them to use local tradesmen and firms wherever possible.”
He said he hoped the married quarters would be reviewed and would work with the MoD if more housing was needed to be built.
Mr Wood added: “Bicester has had the good fortune to have been a Garrison Town since the Second World War, so it is really good news that our connections with the British Army are being strengthened again.”
Ben Jackson, president of Bicester and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our understanding is that numbers will stay relatively level, which is good for local businesses.
“We are in the early stages of delivering a project that will assist serving members of the armed forces and veterans, so the news of the investment and static numbers is doubly good.”
The base has no family quarters, but includes flats for single soldiers, a parade ground and offices.
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