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Rock Barracks saved from closure as new bio-warfare team moves to Woodbridge

PUBLISHED: 00:01 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:53 28 February 2019

In 2015, the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment marched through Woodbridge Market Hill to mark 10 years of being based just outside the town at Rock Barracks.

In 2015, the 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment marched through Woodbridge Market Hill to mark 10 years of being based just outside the town at Rock Barracks.

Rock Barracks is staying open, according to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, as the Woodbridge army base prepares to take on a new specialist capability.

An aerial view of Rock Barracks, Woodbridge Picture: MIKE PAGEAn aerial view of Rock Barracks, Woodbridge Picture: MIKE PAGE

When the barracks was earmarked for closure as part of the MoD’s 2016 strategic review, the decision was met with backlash from the community in Woodbridge, blasted as a potential “disaster” for the town.

It was due to be closed by 2027 before today’s announcement.

It will now house the army’s new Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear capability, a defence task currently being undertaken by the RAF Regiment at Honington.

Suffolk Coastal MP, Therese Coffey, welcomed the announcement, due to be made in the House of Commons on February 28.

23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) based at Rock Barracks near Woodbridge asserted their right to the Freedom of Woodbridge Picture: JOHN LAUGHLIN23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) based at Rock Barracks near Woodbridge asserted their right to the Freedom of Woodbridge Picture: JOHN LAUGHLIN

Dr Coffey said: “I’m delighted by the announcement from the Defence Secretary to keep Rock Barracks open.

“When the MOD first suggested closure back in 2016, Cllr Geoff Holdcroft and I immediately met with Defence Minister Mark Lancaster to make the case on why the base should be retained for its special characteristics and also pointing out its planning constraints would not generate the financial income it may have expected.

“I have continued to make the case with ministers. I’m really pleased that they have now taken the decision not to close it.”

Now saved, it means a Royal Engineers squadron is moving in from its current location in Germany to work on the new capability, with other elements being added as the capability grows over time.

A Chinook lifts off in Woodbridge, a sight residents will see beyond 2017 as Rock Barracks is saved Picture: GEORGINA COUPE RLCA Chinook lifts off in Woodbridge, a sight residents will see beyond 2017 as Rock Barracks is saved Picture: GEORGINA COUPE RLC

The 23 Parachute Engineers will also stay at Rock Barracks for the foreseeable future.

Dr Coffey, as the government minister responsible for responding to chemical and biological incidents, previously worked with members of units that responded to the Novichok incident in Sailsbury.

She added: “I welcome the newly-formed regiment with its specialist capability. They will be great professionals and warmly welcome to Suffolk.

“As well as the local pride of hosting the army in our part of Suffolk, Rock Barracks is home to many service personnel and their families and their presence brings enormous economic benefits to Woodbridge and surrounding villages.”

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