A HUGE boost to the local economy is on its way after it was announced the Army will move troops into RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering.
The news was announced in Parliament on Monday by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox and has brought welcome relief following a period of uncertainty for our military bases.
RAF Cottesmore will close next year and RAF Wittering’s future role had been unclear after the scrapping of the Harrier fleet.
Now RAF Cottesmore will become one of the five regional headquarters for British troops returning from Germany in 2014. The RAF will remain at Wittering and Army troops are likely to share the base from 2015.
St George’s Barracks in North Luffenham will also take extra Army troops in 2015.
A report last year by the East Midlands Development Agency and Rutland County Council estimated that Rutland’s economy would lose £36m a year when RAF Cottesmore closed and the East Midlands would lose £52m.
It is thought the arrival of the Army at the three bases, and an Army unit likely to be posted to Melton Mowbray, will more than replace the millions the economy was expected to lose.
Stamford MP Nick Boles (Con) said: “This announcement is not just great news for the base at Wittering but also for the economy of Stamford, which will get a huge boost.
“The future of RAF Wittering has been secured in the long term by the Army and I know the people of Stamford will warmly welcome the Army to the area.”
North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara (Con), who represents Wittering, added: “I am delighted that there will be a RAF presence at the base and also recognise the economic realities involved, which means that there may well also be an Army unit there from 2015 onwards.”
Rutland MP Alan Duncan (Con) also welcomed the news.
He said: “It is excellent news that Rutland will continue to host the military. The council and I have worked hard with the MOD to avoid this and we have delivered a good result for the county.
“The arrival of the Army in Cottesmore will bring undoubted economic benefits to local business and the area in general, which should help to mitigate the departure of the RAF.”
Rutland County Council’s deputy leader Terry King (Con), who is responsible for economic development, said: “It is clearly good news that the future of RAF Cottesmore and St George’s Barracks have been secured for the benefit for Rutland’s economy.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to find out what the impact will be but we are pleased with this news.”
Coun King, who lives in Cottesmore, said that as the base was being vacated by March next year and the Army were not due to move in until 2014, there would still be time when the base was empty.
Rutland County Council leader Roger Begy (Con) added: “Local businesses can hopefully begin to recover from the downturn in trade due to personnel leaving the RAF base in recent months.
“The economic situation of Cottesmore won’t change overnight but this will certainly help.”