‘OUR fight to keep HMS Sultan alive and in Gosport is still well and truly on’.
That’s the message from the town’s MP, Caroline Dinenage today following a visit from a top defence minister.
Getting rid of HMS Sultan makes no sense for Gosport, no sense for the Royal Navy and no sense for the Ministry of DefenceCaroline Dinenage, Gosport MP
Tobias Ellwood was given a tour of the historic defence establishment, along with other sites on the peninsula owned by the Ministry of Defence.
The Tory chief’s trip comes after the government last year announced it was going axe HMS Sultan by 2026 as part of a major overhaul of the UK’s defence estate.
Among the other sites in the firing line as part of the review include Fort Blockhouse and MoD-retained land at Royal Clarence Yard.
Ms Dinenage said she was behind plans to sell off Fort Blockhouse and part of Royal Clarence Yard, which she said could ‘benefit the whole peninsula’.
But she said flogging off HMS Sultan – the Royal Navy’s prime engineering training hub – was a terrible move.
‘Getting rid of HMS Sultan makes no sense for Gosport, no sense for the Royal Navy and no sense for the Ministry of Defence,’ she said.
‘I’m always going to be making the case to keep Sultan because I think it’s the best deal for the people of Gosport.’
More than a fifth of the total area of Gosport borough is owned by the MoD.
Critics of plans to axe Sultan have claimed it could leave a void in the town’s economy.
The government reshuffle would see some of the training facilities at Sultan being moved to HMS Collingwood in Fareham, with the rest going to Scotland.
But Ms Dinenage claimed this move could cost the taxpayer upwards of £350m.
She added previous promises made to build new homes on former MoD sites like the Royal Hospital Haslar and the Daedalus airfield had never materialised.
Speaking of the three new MoD sites set to be sold, Ms Dinenage said: ‘It’s really important that we get the future right for these sites.
‘For example Fort Blockhouse, we know its disposal has massive potential to drive some much-needed economic investment into the Gosport peninsula but we have to get it right.
‘In Gosport we have seen too often how, under the last Labour government, disposals of assets like Haslar were done for a fraction of what they were worth and never brought to their full potential – and they still haven’t been.’
Mr Ellwood said his tour of the town had given him a new understanding of the ‘symbiotic relationship’ between Gosport and the armed forces.
But when asked if the government could still change its mind on a decision to sell off HMS Sultan, the defence minister said the decision had ‘already been made’.
However, he added: ‘We are going to be investing in this area in the long-term.
‘There are obviously going to be some rationalisation of the many pockets of real estate the armed forces has.
‘The decision for HMS Sultan has been made but there is going to be investment in HMS Collingwood.
‘We’re also going to see – while working very closely with the council – opportunities for Gosport to benefit from the liberation.
‘Royal Clarence Yard, for example, is a perfect area for Gosport to develop and the MoD wants to help.
‘That’s why this visit has been so useful.’
A total of 91 sites are set to be sold off under the MoD defence estate reshuffle.