News that RMB Chivenor will remain open has been unanimously welcomed across North Devon.

Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has today (Thursday) written to North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones to confirm the base will be retained by the Ministry of Defence.

The announcement signals a U-turn on the initial decision to close the base, which is home to Royal Marines’ Commando Logistic Regiment and the Army’s 24 Commando Royal Engineers.

Mayor of Barnstaple, Councillor Ian Roome, hailed the response from the public since the closure was announced in November 2016 as part of the MoD’s Better Defence Estate Strategy.

He said: “RMB Chivenor has always been an important part of North Devon. The announcement of the proposed closure of the Royal Marine base in 2016 created shock waves and a tremendous response from local authorities and public alike.

“At no point did the Marines ever want to leave North Devon. The unique facilities here in North Devon enable the Marines to train to the very highest standards and I was determined to ensure that the Marines stayed here in North Devon.

“Local councils wrote to the Minister for Defence together with many individuals requesting a rethink. In London, Nick Harvey and the late Paddy Ashdown used all of their contacts at the MOD to push for the decision to be reversed.

North Devon Liberal Democrats Ian Roome, David Worden, Kirsten Johnson and Alan Rennles at RMB Chivenor.North Devon Liberal Democrats Ian Roome, David Worden, Kirsten Johnson and Alan Rennles at RMB Chivenor.

“The loss of the base would have had a catastrophic impact on schools and the local economy, but it was proving that the exceptional marine environment for training and the vast amount of land owned by the MOD that won the day.”

“As Mayor of Barnstaple, I proposed to the town council that the Marines be given the Freedom of Barnstaple. There will now be a Freedom March through Barnstaple on Thursday April 4 so we can all celebrate the fact that The Royal Marines will remain here in North Devon.”

North Devon Council’s ward member for Heanton Punchardon, Councillor Andrea Davis, said the news was a ‘huge relief’.

She said: “The news that RMB Chivenor is saved from the closure announced a few years ago is a huge relief to the area.

“I’ve represented Chivenor on the district council for nearly 16 years, the past few years with such uncertainty have been extremely difficult for residents, the decision by the Secretary of State is very much welcomed.

“The base has always been an integral part of the local community, we are all very relieved that this threat has been lifted and will move forward into the future proud that we can support our armed forces and their families in the incredible work they do.”

North Devon Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Kirsten Johnson, welcomed the news, but accused Mr Heaton-Jones of launching a petition to save the base once he knew it was safe.

“Chivenor is vital to the economy of the area so this is marvellous news for local people. The Lib Dems have fought long and hard for this decision and I am delighted our efforts have paid off,” she said.

“Peter Heaton-Jones, having previously rolled over and seemingly accepted that Chivenor would close, has cynically jumped on the bandwagon late in the day to try to claim the credit.

“He should have fought this decision from day one. Instead, when he already knew that Chivenor was safe, he launched a petition so that he could then claim to be its saviour. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Barnstaple County Councillor Brian Greenslade, who was one of the leading voices in the campaign after closure was announced, welcomed the news the base is to remain open after ‘a U-turn’ from the MOD.

He said: “This announcement is really good news for Northern Devon and desperately needed after the decision by Babcock to close Appledore Shipyard. It’s just a great pity that the MOD took so long to see the sense of retaining Chivenor for military use.

“When the closure announcement was first reported some local elected representatives just shrugged their shoulders and described it ‘as a done deal’. Former MP and Defence Minister Nick Harvey and I did not accept this and promised a ‘battle royal’ to save Chivenor from closure.

“We are delighted that Mr Williamson has now confirmed that the Marines will stay at Chivenor. With superb community support the ‘battle royal’ has been won. The economic, educational and social benefits of having the Marines in North Devon cannot be stressed too strongly.”

Braunton west councillor Jasmine Chesters added: “What wonderful news, the anxiety that has been hanging over people for so long is now lifted. Not only for the service personnel and their families but everyone in the area.

“This must include schools and shops, as well as those employing Chivenor ladies. The economy would have been rocked had the closure gone ahead.

“Everyone has worked so hard to keep the station open, our thanks must also go to our MP Peter Heaton-Jones for keeping the pressure on with the right departments.”