On 10 May this year I announced the structure of the new peacetime garrison in Northern Ireland reflecting the Government’s global defence commitments. I said then that the future of the site at Laurel Hill House, Coleraine, would be subject to a review of adventurous training provision. That review is now complete and has concluded that the needs of the new smaller garrison can satisfactorily be met from other retained sites, and that there is no requirement to retain Laurel Hill House. We plan therefore to close the Laurel Hill House site by August 2007.
Laurel Hill House has provided vital facilities for military personnel and their families during Operation Banner. The staff, past and present, have provided an excellent service for their visitors. But as the structure of the garrison in Northern Ireland changes and the number of military personnel and their families reduce, there is no requirement to retain the facility. The Army Careers Information Office (ACIO) that is currently located within the Laurel Hill House complex will be relocated to the TA Centre in Artillery Road Coleraine. This will improve its visibility and accessibility to potential recruits.
There are 22 civil servants currently working at the Laurel Hill House site, including one civil servant at the ACIO. We continue to consult with the trades unions in respect of the future requirement of civilian staff in support to the military in Northern Ireland. We will, of course, seek to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy as far as possible through transfer and voluntary early release. The Department is fully committed to supporting all civilian staff at every stage of this period of change.