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RAF Innsworth

Volume 458: debated on Monday 26 March 2007

2. What consideration he is giving to the ongoing use of the RAF Innsworth site; and if he will make a statement. (129296)

There is no further Royal Air Force requirement for the Innsworth site beyond 2008. As is normal practice, we are now assessing whether there is any other military use for the site. It is too early to make any firm commitments, but one option being considered is that it should house British forces returning from Germany in the 2008-12 time frame.

I thank the Minister for the response and the letter that I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Defence on 13 March regarding that possible transfer. Innsworth is quite a deprived area and the armed forces provide the life blood of it, so it came as a body blow to the area when the announcement was made to close the site as an RAF site. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to moving another operation to the area, to make that decision as soon as possible, and to make the transfer, should it be to Innsworth, as soon as possible, because we do not want too long a gap between the two.

I share the concerns raised by the hon. Gentleman about the impact on local communities when such a closure takes place, but I am sure that he will appreciate that what we are seeking to do by co-locating the two main RAF headquarters on one site makes sense in defence terms, for a whole lot of good value-for-money reasons, as well as people reasons. In terms of the future use, my view is that we should be looking, as progressively as we can, to move forward the timetables. I would not like to see a major planning blight descending on that site for any length of time, if at all. It is an important site. That is why we have designated it as a potential—probable—site for other military use. If that does not happen, we should make our decisions quickly so that alternatives uses can be found.