THE date for the disposal of Winchester’s army training camp has been pushed back by another two years.

In 2016 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that Sir John Moore Barracks would close in December 2021, but it was given a temporary reprieve in 2019 and the site will be vacated on a phased basis between 2022 and 2024. Now, the date the army will leave the base has been delayed by another two years to 2026.

The news comes as the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the Government's “Future Soldier” programme, the British Army's most radical transformation in 20 years.

According to the MP the army will act as “expeditionary fighting force” designed to be “deployable and lethal” under new reforms.

Mr Wallace told MPs that a restructuring and reorganisation of units will take place in the coming years, with the regular Army standing at 73,000 by 2025 – a reduction from 82,000 although 500 higher than the initial target. This will be combined with an Army reserve of 30,000.

Last year the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), part of the MoD, published its vision for the Winchester barracks off of Andover Road.

A variety of housing has been proposed, including apartments and specialist elderly accommodation, along with a neighbourhood centre which could include community and sport and leisure facilities.

Part of the site has also been earmarked for employment and commercial use, with the potential for a park and ride also being explored.

More recently, calls have been made to protect open space at the base which local politicians fear is earmarked for housing.

Campaigners want to save 25 hectares as a nature reserve that has never been intensively farmed, although used for training recruits.

Reacting to the announcement, Winchester’s MP Steve Brine said: “Given the complexity of the Future Soldier plans announced, this is not a surprise and makes sense. There is a part of me, a big part actually, which still hopes we can avert the disposal but that is extremely unlikely given the reductions in the size of the Army as outlined in the strategic review. What this does however, is give us more time to convince all partners and especially Winchester City Council of the merits of our plans for a Nature Reserve on the northern section of the barracks site.”

Cllr George Sallis, chairman of Littleton and Harestock Parish Council said: "Littleton and Harestock Parish Council is encouraged by the delay. Following our recent discussions with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, it is clear that they will need to take time to rework the masterplan to incorporate the new Local Nature Reserve.

"I am meeting with two more Winchester-based institutions next week who have expressed a strong interest in joining the LNR strategic stakeholder board, alongside our local councillors, MP, HIWWT and Sparsholt College. We now need Winchester City Council to do the right thing and officially endorse the proposal, making a commitment to protecting 25 hectares of previously undeveloped green space."

Under the Government’s latest plans the number of personnel based at Worthy Down will be increased.

An Army spokesperson said: "As part of delivering the Army’s Future Soldier commitment, the disposal of Sir John Moore Barracks in Winchester will be delayed from 2024 to 2026. This will also lead to an uplift in the numbers of personnel based at Worthy Down as part of the restructure in the region. The Future Soldier programme will mean a more challenging and interesting Army career for all of those officers and soldiers based across Hampshire.”

Winchester City Council has been contacted for a comment.