Westminster debate sees support for Gosport naval base threatened with closure

AN MP has spoken of her delight after a campaign to save a Royal Navy training facility was given support in parliament.

Friday, 24th February 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:57 am
The west gate of HMS Sultan in Gosport

As reported by The News, the Ministry of Defence announced it intends to sell HMS Sultan by 2026 as part of its Better Defence Estate Strategy (BDES).

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has campaigned to save the engineering training centre, which rated outstanding by Ofsted in its most recent inspection.

Training would be moved to HMS Collingwood, in Fareham, and Scotland.

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Ms Dinenage has formed a task force to save HMS Sultan and quizzed officials from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, saying that little work was carried out before the announcement.

Her campaign has picked up steam and Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who is part of the Public Accounts Committee, expressed her support for keeping Sultan – and Fort Blockhouse – open when the BDES was debated in the Commons.

Ms Trevelyan said: ‘So far I am very dissatisfied that economic cases have not been done.

‘One aim of the state programme is to release land for house building but scope for housing in Gosport is severely limited by the local plan and lack of local demand.

‘Sale to commercial developers is complicated by high on-site maintenance costs –HMS Sultan contains heritage assets and listed buildings.

‘At Blockhouse there is optimism to regenerate the site for leisure and maritime allocation but the MoD’s decision to retain the waterfront part of the site significantly jeopardises the employment generating opportunity.’

Ms Dinenage said: ‘I’m so pleased my noisy campaigning is being heard across parliament.

‘I appreciate the MoD’s need to streamline its massive defence estate.

‘But in my view, a pragmatic, business-minded approach must drive disposal decisions to exact the best possible outcomes for the taxpayer, the MoD and the local community here in Gosport.’

A spokesman for the MoD said: ‘The sale of HMS Sultan in 2026 is part of the BDES and will help ensure a modern estate fit for our personnel and their families.

‘The release of this site provides the local council with opportunities for commercial use, business growth and job creation.’