Barracks to close - but museum is saved

Hopes of saving Fulwood Barracks from a drastic cull of military bases in the UK appear to have been dashed - but its museum will be spared.

Saturday, 18th March 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:12 am
Photo Neil Cross Fulwood Barracks, Preston

The Ministry of Defence has written to Preston City Council confirming the 169-year-old garrison will definitely close by 2022, despite a public outcry from across Lancashire.

But at the same time the acclaimed Lancashire Infantry Museum, based inside the barracks, is to be saved, with Whitehall reassuring trustees it will honour its promise to find it a new home when the Army base shuts.

The developments come as plans are due to go before the city council for a smart new entrance to the Fulwood garrison - with the bill being picked up by the taxpayer.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Roger Goodwin

Confirmation of the closure plan has come in a letter from Mark Lancaster, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Personnel and Veterans, to the city council.

Responding to concerns raised by the local authority over the closure of its historic barracks, Mr Lancaster said Army top brass had backed the decision to close it within five years.

“I can confirm that senior military officers have endorsed this strategy,” he said. “The fact remains that Fulwood Barracks is no longer fit for purpose.

“We will commit to work with any new owners to find a long-term sustainable solution for preserving the heritage associated with the site.

The Lancashire Infantry Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston

“I appreciate the strength of feeling amongst the community in Preston regarding the announcement to release Fulwood Barracks.

“The MoD recognises the historial significance of Fulwood Barracks and the long-standing connection the local community has with the military and the Lancashire Infantry Museum.

“I am pleased to confirm the Lancashire Infantry Museum will be reprovided for when the barracks closes in 2022.

“We are sensitive to local concerns, but have to make difficult decisions in order to better use the defence estate in support of military capability.”

Roger Goodwin

The MoD is to invest on improvements to Weeton Barracks, near Kirkham, because it can “better support future capability.”

An Army spokesman said: “Although Fulwood Barracks is scheduled to close by 2022 it remains a working barracks.

“Therefore the Army will continue to invest in the premises where required until its closure, so as to provide a safe and secure environment for military personnel, many of whom live here, and our civilian staff.

“The proposed improvements to the entrance were requested, and MoD funding approved, due to safety and security concerns.

The Lancashire Infantry Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston

“These concerns were realised following an increase in traffic through Fulwood’s main gate which accompanied the arrival of 3 Medical Regiment in 2014.”

Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council, said: “From our correspondence with the Ministry of Defence, it appears that there is little hope of saving Fulwood Barracks.

“However it is clear that they recognise the importance of the museum needing a new home and we will do our best to support them to find a suitable location in Preston.”

Preston MP Mark Hendrick, who has been campaigning to keep the Army base open, said: “It seems like that is the final nail in the coffin for the barracks, or certainly very close to the final nail.

“I have spoken to the Minister Mark Lancaster and he said even the officers themselves at Fulwood say it is not fit for purpose.

“Clearly the MoD are planning to shut Fulwood and Chester and concentrate their finances on a new build at Weeton, which will be more modern and up to date.

“But consider the impact this is going to have on the economy of the north sid eof Preston.

“As for spending money on a new entrance for only five years, I think that’s kidology. They are making the site ready for the developers to move in with their big wagons.”

The announcement that the Infantry Museum, at Fulwood since 1928, is to be re-homed has been welcomed by trustees.

One of them, Roger Goodwin, said: “The future of the museum has been assured. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that they will provide suitable and alternative accommodation for us should that become necessary.

“There has always been a clause in the lease that should the MoD decide to close Fulwood they would find suitable and appropriate alternative accommodation for us. We now have confirmation that they will stick to their word.”