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MOD submits plans for £270m redevelopment of base near Winchester
PLANS for the £270m redevelopment of Worthy Down Army base into a tri-service training college have reached a major milestone.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has officially lodged plans for a new Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force college with Winchester City Council.
But there is disappointment for local people hoping for a boost in community facilities.
The major revamp will more than double the number of personnel to 2,000 and secure its future as a military base at a time of defence cuts.
It is the biggest military development in Winchester since the opening of Sir John Moore Barracks at Littleton and the departure from Peninsula Barracks in the mid-1980s.
The plans have been welcomed by the local MP and a city councillor but hopes of extra facilities, including allotments and burial ground, have been dashed.
Under the plans, up to 92 new homes for service families will be built on farmland off Connaught Road.
Most buildings inside the camp will be bulldozed to make way for new barracks, mess buildings, classrooms, offices and welfare facilities.
Some buildings will be up to four-storeys tall although largely hidden by surrounding woodland, say military chiefs.
Under the plans, students will nearly triple from 479 to 1,350 while permanent staff will increase from 250 to 650.
Proposals include a cycle route both sides of Christmas Hill between Worthy Down and the roundabout at the A34 slip road.
The MoD also plans to negotiate with the county council and transport companies to improve bus services between Worthy Down, Winchester and Basingstoke.
City councillor Stephen Godfrey, who represents South Wonston, hailed plans for the 90-hectare site as “good news in many respects.”
The retired Army major said: “Worthy Down has been slowly getting quieter and quieter. The investment of £270m will allow to the MoD to bring back something like 1,250 jobs with Worthy Down getting back to what it was 25 years ago. It will bring a lot of vibrancy to the area.”
Cllr Godfrey said: “We hope we will get greater co-operation between the MoD and local community in the shared use of facilities.”
There are currently no plans to make MoD-owned farmland next to South Wonston recreation ground available for a burial ground, allotments or football field, as requested by parish chiefs.
Nor are there proposals for a former railway to become a cycle route between South Wonston and Winchester. Military chiefs say a legal agreement with the tenant farmer make these impossible.
Debbie Found, clerk to South Wonston Parish Council, said: “There are no extra opportunities for us which is a shame.”
Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine welcomed the “huge investment” by the MoD. He said: “I am due to receive a full briefing before Christmas on the outline plans and will be using that opportunity to leverage as much in the way of positive community outcomes as possible.”
In the outline planning application, it says there are believed to be sufficient spare places at South Wonston Primary and Henry Beaufort Secondary School to cope with the extra 90 homes.
However military chiefs admit there is likely to be increased pressure on
local services and are prepared “if necessary” to make financial contributions for improvements.
As a condition of planning permission, known as Section 106 agreements, the MoD is proposing to give money for sports pitches in the area, library services and special education.