North Devon Council has started work on a contingency plan should RMB Chivenor close. The councils overview and scrutiny committee were joined by North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones, his predecessor Nick Harvey and former UKIP chairman Steve Crowther for a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the future of the Chivenor site. It was announced in November the Royal Marines would leave their North Devon base by 2027 as part of the Governments Better Defence Estate strategy. However, last month Defence Secretary Michael Fallon left the door open for Royal Marines remaining at the site, saying no final decisions had been made on the closure. Scrutiny chairman Councillor Brian Greenslade said: This is a starting block. If we can keep military presence at Chivenor, thats what we want to do. We feel the benefit of them in our community, they enrich our community. Equally we understand the loss of their spending power in our community is not good news for North Devon. Mr Heaton-Jones said Mr Fallons comments last month were a significant change and a moving of the goalposts, but said the door should not be closed on a change of use for some of the land. He said: He stopped, looked and listened and what he said was very different from what he had previously said, leaving the door open to future use for Chivenor, which the Ministry of Defence had, until then, not suggested. I felt that was significant. A change of use of some or all of the land presents North Devon with a big opportunity and we shouldnt be closing the door to that at this stage. Mr Harvey also believed the Governments decision may have changed, but said there needed to be public sector investment at the site should the worst happen. They make big announcements in the House of Commons and then work out how they are going to do it later, he said. We shouldnt give up on at least some of the existing use being retained. I didnt believe it at the time but I do after subsequent investigation. If we cant get another military presence I seriously urge efforts to fund some other public sector use, because beyond that its hard to see how we would attract investment. It wont fill the whole site and housing has some potential but the flood issue will be quite expensive to mitigate.