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Rock Barracks at Woodbridge, home to 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment, set to close

PUBLISHED: 17:33 07 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:33 07 November 2016

The 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment marched through Woodbridge Market Hill to mark 10 years of being based just outside the town at Rock Barracks.

The 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment marched through Woodbridge Market Hill to mark 10 years of being based just outside the town at Rock Barracks.

The Ministry of Defence is looking to close Rock Barracks at Woodbridge, it was announced today.

Rock Barracks, WoodbridgeRock Barracks, Woodbridge

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon told the House of Commons in a statement that Rock Barracks was one of a number of army bases which could be closed under a review of defence property.

A timetable for closure has not been announced, but the last service personnel are not expected to leave until 2027.

Rock Barracks was established 10 years ago on part of the site of the former USAF Woodbridge airbase that had closed in 1993 – and is home to 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment.

That provides engineer support to 16 Air Assault Brigade whose headquarters is at Colchester. The Regiment has two regular parachute squadrons and a reserve parachute squadron, all of which are trained in air operations.

The Woodbridge-based regiment has more than 500 personnel and many live with their families – so the impact on the local economy could be serious.

An MoD spokesman said: “The department has continually reviewed how the Defence estate is used, considering whether capabilities can be relocated to other areas to create clusters of sites with similar output.

“After much consideration it has been decided that the roles carried out at MOD Woodbridge would be better located elsewhere.

“Where and when military units will be moving from MOD Woodbridge is to be confirmed.

“Civilian staff whose posts are considered surplus as a consequence of the disbandment and disposal of sites will be placed in the Department’s redeployment pool. There will be formal consultation with Trades Union well in advance of any closure.

“The local authority has been made aware of the potential for disposal of the site. There is scope for mixed use of the site, combining housing and commercial use.

“The Defence Infrastructure Organisation will work closely with the Local Authority and other interested parties to consider the best possible future uses for the site. Closing Defence establishments can often provide new opportunities for civilian re-use and development subject to achievement of planning permission.”

The closure includes Woodbridge Airfield which is next to the barracks and used by the Wattisham-based Army Air Corps for training exercises.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey said the closure may not happen for some time yet might not be quick.

She said: “I want to look at the detail of what is being proposed and the reasons for this closure as I know how much local people have really embraced 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment who are based there.

“Having seen action in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the regiment were awarded the Freedom of Woodbridge in 2009 and have regularly paraded through the town.

“I know residents always enjoy the open days held on the base when the gates are thrown open and activities on offer for all the family.

“Since the regiment was re-formed in 2003, they have played an invaluable part of our national defence force being on a constant state of high readiness in preparation for deployment anywhere in the world. They have played an important part in local life in Woodbridge and will be missed if the base does close.”

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