When I learned that the Ministry of Defence had decided that the Royal Irish Regiment would be vacating Clive Barracks at Tern Hill, I invited a number of local councils and agencies to set up a Task Force to ensure that the transition of the site from the MoD in 2020 works for the long term advantage of local people.
The Task Force first met Mark Lancaster MP, the Defence Minister responsible, in London where visits to similar sites that are in the process of being developed were proposed. Last week, the Task Force, comprising representatives from Shropshire Council, Market Drayton Town Council and Stoke on Tern Parish Council, joined me in a trip to Prince Philip Barracks in Bordon, Hampshire. By Hampshire standards this is a fairly run down area and the development of the town has long been hampered because it has been divided by a major trunk road. A new relief road is being built allowing the town to be reunited, creating a whole new town centre around the parade ground and formal buildings of the barracks.
I was encouraged and impressed by the commitment shown by the MoD, and in particular the Defence Infrastructure Organisation who had involved local groups and businesses from the beginning. They are building 4,000 houses, a care home, a primary school, a secondary school, a swimming pool and sports facilities. Eight hectares of land will be dedicated to new employment opportunities and they hope to create 5,500 new jobs.
All the councils at every level are working closely together and they saw this as a wonderful opportunity to totally rejuvenate the area. They are using this opportunity to do something radical. We can do the same at Tern Hill.
Senior officials from Shropshire Council are already coordinating the work of the Task Force most effectively and they are working closely with officials at the MoD. The next major step is for the announcement on timing from the MoD in the autumn. Meanwhile they have plenty of work to do working with the MoD deciding the details of the land that will be available.
The redevelopment of Prince Philip Barracks is a good example of disused MoD land being put to good use creating new prosperity and jobs. We must work hard to emulate this in North Shropshire to build a well-planned town, complete with new homes, community facilities and job opportunities. We can also learn from places such as Poundbury, an urban extension of Dorchester using the best local materials where careful planning allows people to live, go to school and work in the same place, without having to use a car.
I look forward to the next Task Force meeting in November. In the meantime I welcome input from my constituents.