CONTROVERSIAL plans to close the city’s military bases appear to have been shelved after an application was lodged to create an RAF gliding school on land previously earmarked for a new £600 million super barracks.
A planning application for a £750,000 refurbishment of the runway and accommodation at RAF Kirknewton has been received by the city council.
In an attached supporting statement, RAF bosses claim that the investment will secure the site as a Volunteer Gliding School (VGS) for the “next 25 years”.
The news comes ahead of the long-awaited review of the army’s future by Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond.
Last year, contentious plans were announced to close both the city’s army barracks, at Dreghorn and Redford, and the headquarters site at Craigiehall and build a new super barracks on Ministry of Defence-owned land at Kirknewton.
An announcement on the plans has been delayed and MOD chiefs refused to be drawn on just what this application, submitted by Headquarters Air Cadets (HQAC), meant, however it would now appear that the city’s bases have been spared.
Edinburgh West Liberal MP Mike Crockart, who has long campaigned for the bases to remain, welcomed the news.
He said: “This is an unusual but nevertheless welcome way for the Ministry of Defence to admit defeat. When the £600m super barracks was announced in July 2011, I knew then it was a ridiculous, ill thought-out proposal and I’m glad that they now agree.
“What is still needed, however, is a coherent plan for the Edinburgh army estate which delivers good quality accommodation at an affordable price. I’m clear that Craigiehall should feature in that plan as the base for the army HQ in Scotland and I’m meeting the Armed Services Minister shortly to make that case.”
Mr Hammond revealed the latest proposed changes to the structure of the army, including cutting the number of regular soldiers from 102,000 to 82,000, when he set out the Army 2020 plan in the Commons last July.
Also among the changes were a move away from the previous plans for five large “multi-role brigades”, one of which was expected to be based at the Kirknewton super barracks, and a downgrading of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to a company, which will be based in Edinburgh, to perform ceremonial duties.
Mr Crockart had previously argued Craigiehall could become a combined headquarters for the brigades expected to be based at Kirknewton and Leuchars.
An MOD spokesman said: “While a planning application has been lodged for developments at Kirknewton, no decision has been taken at this time on the future use of the site.”
Established at RAF Kirknewton in the early 60s, VGS Kirknewton provides flying experience for all 47 Air Training Corps (ATC) Squadrons in the central belt and south of Scotland.