Future of Bassingbourn Barracks hangs in the balance

THE future of Bassingbourn Barracks hangs in the balance after its final recruits finished their training last week.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials have not yet decided what will happen to the site when it is handed back to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) next March.

The organisation is looking at developing new uses for MoD sites as well as disposing of them.

It was initially thought the barracks would become a garrison for troops returning from Germany by 2020 and would be used by members of the Army multi-role brigade based in the east of England.

Waterbeach Barracks, north of Cambridge, was closed last year to be developed for housing, and South Cambs District Council representative Cllr David McCraith is concerned for the future of Bassingbourn.

He told The Crow: “I’m very worried about what they decide to do. I can’t comment on what they decide to do because no one seems to know – especially them.

“If they develop if for housing the amount of houses involved would dwarf the village, that’s my initial reaction.

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“I think residents are worried about what’s going to happen, especially as the MoD doesn’t know what is going to happen. I would much prefer to have some sort of certainty.”

Cllr McCraith also raised concerns over jobs for people in the village. This follows The Crow exclusively reporting last year on claims made by an insider that all civilians at the base would be made redundant.

The Army is still unable to confirm how many people will be laid off with a spokesman saying “it’s just difficult to say at the moment” and they will know more when the army withdraws its presence at the end of the year.

Union representatives say they will work with anyone made redundant and have claimed officials ignored pleas to keep the base open.

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union said: “Despite our opposition the Ministry of Defence has decided to close the barracks.

“We are trying to negotiate the best possible outcome for the workers employed at Bassingbourn.”

Away from economic concerns, a number of organisations and clubs call the barracks home, including a museum dedicated to its use in WWII by the US, and air cadets and a dry ski slope.

Defence chiefs have allowed them access until March but after that date any non-MoD access to the site will be reviewed.

Chairman of the control tower museum’s directors said: “For us it is business as usual. We will deal with it as and when anything changes.”

The Bassingbourn Snowsports Centre has a lease until 2014 from the MoD and chairman David Allason says they have been told to continue as normal.

Although many concerns have been raised by residents, the closure has also affected servicemen who have passed through the barracks.

Colonel Richard Kemp CBE was a Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan who wrote a Sunday Times bestseller on the 2007 campaign undertaken by the Royal Anglian Regiment against the Taliban.

He tweeted: “Sorry to see Bassingbourn close. I did my recruit training in 1977 and was a recruit platoon commander there early 80s.”