RMB Chivenor will NOT be closing, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirms

RMB Chivenor. Picture: Tony Gussin

RMB Chivenor. Picture: Tony Gussin - Credit: Archant

RMB Chivenor will not be closing, a letter for the Secretary of State for Defence has revealed.

Gavin Williamson has today (Thursday) written to North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones to confirm the base, which was announced for closure as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Better Defence Estate Strategy in 2016, will remain in use.

The news was confirmed in the House of Commons by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Tobias Ellwood, who said Chivenor was one of five sites originally earmarked for closure that will instead be retained.

Mr Ellwood also confirmed Mr Williamson would be visiting Chivenor later today.

In his letter to Mr Heaton-Jones, Mr Williamson said: “Today’s announcement confirms that, as a result of assessment work the Department no longer intends to dispose of Royal Marines Chivenor in your constituency, which was initially announced for disposal.

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“We recognise the strength of local feeling and deep roots between Royal Marines Chivenor and the local community, and acknowledge the campaign you have led to retain Royal Marines Chivenor.

“Royal Marines Chivenor will now be retained as it has ongoing defence use. This decision will offer better value for money and better supports military capability.”

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Mr Heaton-Jones, who recently canvassed North Devon residents to write to the Secretary of State, and delivered some 5,000 letters to him last month, said the announcement was ‘fantastic news’.

“Today, we’ve got what North Devon wanted,” he said.

“It’s come after a brilliant cross-community campaign, involving many councils, businesses, organisations and individuals.

“This is a huge vote of confidence in the military personnel at Chivenor and a big relief for their families.

“It’s a welcome boost for the local community who are so proud of the Base and its historic links to North Devon.

“It’s also good news for the wider North Devon economy which would have suffered if RMB Chivenor had closed.

“I am delighted that all the lobbying has paid off and that, once again, the voice of North Devon has been heard loud and clear at the most senior levels of government.

“The community should be extremely proud of this outcome.”

The base is home to the Royal Marines’ Commando Logistic Regiment and the Army’s 24 Commando Royal Engineers. Both regiments are part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Last month North Devon MP presented the Defence Secretary with almost 5,000 letters from North Devonians calling for the base to be saved. It came after Mr Heaton-Jones wrote to thousands of households around Barnstaple and Braunton.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood hinted the base may not be closing after all back in January, when he told a parliamentary debate to ‘read between the lines’ when he said Chivenor would ‘continue to have a role to play’.

The Ministry of Defence announced its intention to close the base by 2027 back in 2016 as part of its Better Defence Estate strategy.

It was originally considered the base would be consolidated in Plymouth or Torpoint.

READ MORE: Mayor of Barnstaple joins Royal Marines for cold weather trainingREAD MORE: PICTURES: Royal Marines take to Saunton Beach for training exercise

There have been mixed signals from the Government ever since the initial announcement. During a visit to Chivenor in 2017, then-Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said no final decision had been made on the base.

Minister Mark Lancaster reminded the House of Commons of the intention to close in January 2018 before Mr Heaton-Jones threw his hat in the ring to say it wasn’t a done deal a week later.

READ MORE: North Devon MP hails ‘amazing’ response to RMB Chivenor campaign after receiving thousands of letters

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