MoD takes charge of new barracks

SOLDIERS marched into new £82million barracks near Woodbridge yesterday - and declared they would be the envy of the rest of the Army.The development has all the modern refinements that today's soldiers could want and there are superb sports facilities, including squash court, a gym and playing fields, that could be opened to the public.

By Richard Smith

SOLDIERS marched into new £82million barracks near Woodbridge yesterday - and declared they would be the envy of the rest of the Army.

The development has all the modern refinements that today's soldiers could want and there are superb sports facilities, including squash court, a gym and playing fields, that could be opened to the public.

While there are still health and safety issues to be resolved, the Army, determined to become part of the Woodbridge community, is hopeful that groups will be able to enjoy the sports complex.


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For the last two years, the Skanska construction company has been working on the new barracks almost shrouded in secrecy.

The general public has been largely unaware of the development of the new home for the 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), primarily because of the steps taken to minimise the inconvenience for the outside world.

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Nearly all the waste material from the demolition of 92 old airfield buildings has been recycled and this has saved more than 10,000 heavy vehicle movements.

Noise has been reduced by constructing a bund to provide a barrier with homes occupied by the public on the perimeter of the airfield.

Environmental concerns have been assessed through stringent planning controls, with 1,000 pages of requirements to assess and consultations with numerous regulatory bodies.

James Macmillan, Skanska's environmental advisor, said an area of heather the size of a football pitch had been picked up and moved, which the “most challenging” environment project.

“We had 17 agencies working alongside on that project,” he said.

Mr Macmillan added: “All permanent lighting has zero upward light pollution, minimising disturbance to the local habitat and community.

“When we had to bring material onto the site we avoided the rush hours and our staff have loved working here so much that some of them have bought homes here.”

Vice-Admiral Peter Dunt, chief executive of Defence Estates, paid tribute to the construction of the barracks, which was finished on time and within budget.

“I think it is amazing that there are people who live out there who have hardly realised what has been going on,” he said.

The Vice-Admiral dug the first sod in July 2004, visited the airfield again last year and attended yesterday's ceremony when the barracks was officially handed over by Skanska. Ipswich-based Jackson Group was the trade contractors.

Ian Hutchison, commanding officer of the regiment, said: “It is fantastic here. We have a squadron just come back from Iraq, another squadron going to Iraq in October or November and they will enjoy living here.

“The quicker that they all become part of the community and the quicker that people see we are just like them, the better.”

The soldiers will wear their uniform when they are on duty and visiting the surrounding area during their working day. They will wear “civvies” when they are off-duty.

The huge development was not without mishaps. David Fison, chief executive of Skanska, revealed that the water supply had been temporarily cut off to the public at one point.

“But when we went round with bottles of water and bars of chocolate, the reaction was fantastic. The public understood we had made a mistake and that we were trying to do our best,” he said.

Rock Barracks is named after Lt Col John Rock, a Royal Engineer officer who formed airborne forces in the Second World War.

It will be home to 636 personnel with in excess of 1,000 people living in the area. The Army is now equipping the barracks - each soldier has their own en-suite room with internet and Sky television - and the soldiers will start living there from July.

The units using Rock Barracks will be 12 Nova Scotia HQ Squadron, 9 Parachute Squadron, 51 Field Squadron (Air Assault), the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and 61 Field Support Squadron.

They will not be responsible or have any need for the runway and it is not expected there will be extra flights. The airfield, once occupied by the American Air Force, has been used for helicopter training and some exercises.

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