NEWS of the closure of a Hampshire army base has been greeted with dismay by a former senior soldier.

SIR John Moore Barracks near Winchester is set to close in 2020 or 2021, the Government announced as part of a review of its estate.

The base at Flowerdown near Littleton, only opened in 1986 but is now surplus to requirements by the Ministry of Defence.

But the announcement has been greeted with sadness and dismay in some quarters.

Maj Ron Cassidy who served in the Army for 34 years and worked at the base between 1986-89, said: "They have taken away a training depot which has been well-served by the people of Winchester for years."

When it first opened it was the base for the Royal Green Jackets and the Light Infantry, who can trace their links to Winchester more than 150 years.

Maj Cassidy said: "That base represented something that has been there years, since Victorian times. I find it upsetting. We are losing that connection. Winchester has been part and parcel of the Rifle Brigade and the King's Royal Rifle Corps, they got to Winchester in 1856.

"Every year the Royal Green Jackets hold their reunion at the barracks, several hundred people. This will be a tremendous blow to them. Where will they go? You can't imagine their confusion and hurt. Every year they swarmed into the town, filling up the coffers especially the pubs."

Patrick Cunningham, chairman of Littleton and Harestock Parish Council, said: "It is going to be a really sad end, given how long the military have been there and prior to that at HMS Flowerdown. But nothing can be done about it in terms of fighting the closure. It is a fait accompli. We are surprised by the news."

He said the council supports the idea of a Knowledge Park rather than housing. "We want to see a continuation of employment and the protection of the Littleton Gap. Winchester is crying out for a business park."

Local MP Steve Brine has joined business leaders, the city council and university to launch ambitious plans for a Knowledge Park on the 86-hectare site.

The group revealed they are exploring how to bring hundreds of new high skilled jobs to the site which is expected to attract employers because of its proximity to the city centre and transport links to the A34.

Housing developers will also be interested in the land across the road from Barton Farm.

The city council says it will resist any housing there as the requirements in the Local Plan are already earmarked including the 2,000 homes at Barton Farm, now known as King's Barton.