Forces for good: new uses from surplus military land
FORCES FOR GOODlocal benefits from surplus military landresearch by Julian Dobson for the Bill Sargent Trust
THE BIG ISSUE An unprecedented amount of military land will be soldbetween now and 2020. If it is done well, there could be huge long term benefits for ex-service personnel and local communities. If it is done badly, years of blight and extra public expense are likely.
Former RAF Binbrook, Brookenby picture by Fen Kipley, Community Lincs
THREE BIGPRESSURESThe scale of defence cuts: Minimum of 17,000 armedforces and 25,000 civilian job losses.The scale of military landholdings: MOD owns 1% ofUK land. Restructuring will make much of it surplus torequirements.Pressures on the Ministry of Defence: MOD isexpected to use land sales to generate income to balance itsbudget - generating £3.4bn from 1998-2008. Thisincentivises short-term thinking.
WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG Rowner estate, Gosport: £145m regeneration schemerequired after piecemeal land sales in 1980s and 1990s
WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG RAF bases, Lincolnshire: Cost of additional publicservices for rural communities estimated at £20m+(data & picture from Fen Kipley, Community Lincs)
WHEN WE GET IT RIGHT Caterham Barracks, Surrey: Affordable homes andcommunity facilities owned by a resident-controlled trust
WHEN WE GET IT RIGHT Aldershot Urban Extension:Long term partnership betweenRushmoor Council and DefenceInfrastructure Organisation to create shared value Initial thoughts for Wellesley, Aldershot by Grainger plc
WHO IS AFFECTED?Local residents: In many areas there are strong social andeconomic ties between the military and local communities.Public service providers: Vacant or poorly redevelopedsites have implications for health, transport, education,housing and social services.Ex-forces personnel: Many ex-service people have strongties with their base locality. The reuse of surplus sites couldprovide them with homes or employment.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?Poor decision-making: Many local authorities are notaware of which sites may come up for disposal and have nostrategy for their reuse.Lack of coordination: Liaison between MOD, Homes andCommunities Agency, local authorities and residents ispatchy. Government departments work at cross-purposes.Rushed land sales: The drive for a quick capital receiptcan lead to sales to absentee landlords or developers thatlack capacity to deliver.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?(2)Long term blight: Poorly handled disposals lead to aspiral of neglect.Disrupted communities: Loss of employment and salesof housing to absentee landlords lead to economic and socialdecline.Public expense: It can be costly and time consuming toregenerate former military sites sold in poor condition, andto address economic and social disruption.
‘My husband once said it’s easier to doa tour of Afghanistan than to live here.’ Resident, former MOD community, Lincolnshire (from research by Fen Kipley, Community Lincs)
WHAT ARE THEOPPORTUNITIES?A future for ex-service personnel: Sites can be reusedto provide homes and job opportunities where people havelocal connections.Local economic development: New employment usescan compensate for former military employment: BrooklynNavy Yard in New York hosts 275 businesses and hasgenerated 6,000 jobs.Affordable housing: Former military sites can meet localhousing need, as at Chatham Dockyard.
WHAT ARE THEOPPORTUNITIES? (2)Community assets: Redevelopment can createopportunities for community ownership, as at CaterhamBarracks.Preservation of heritage: Restoration of heritagebuildings can create economic opportunities, as atPortsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.New open spaces: Rainham Marshes was sold to theRoyal Society for the Protection of Birds as a wildlife site.
‘It’s not just about what you can giveaway when something’s disposed of,it’s about sharing assets you’ve both got and bringing them together.’ Participant in Bill Sargent Trust policy round table
A FRAMEWORK FORTHE FUTUREThe key partners: Local authorities, DefenceInfrastructure Organisation, Homes & Communities Agency,housing providers, community trusts, local residents.A common bond: The Armed Forces Covenant used as away of facilitating discussion and planning about how bestto reuse sites.Shared value: Wider economic and social value put at theheart of the disposals process; end target-driven landdisposals.
FOUR CALLS TOACTIONTake a long term approach: Value assets according tolong term use and public benefit, not just immediate cashreceipts.Co-operate: Create incentives for departments tocooperate in the wider public interest.Share good practice: Spread information about whatworks well and build networks of interested communities.Learn: Consider international experience and lessons fromprevious disposals.
FOUR PRINCIPLES FORSUCCESSMaximise public benefit from assets acquired withpublic funds.Interpret value broadly, building on recent TreasuryGreen Book guidance.Localism: ‘Nothing about us without us’ should be aguiding principle.Long term visions to envisage how surplus military assetscan enhance local communities.
‘The full value of goods such as health, educational success, family and community stability, andenvironmental assets cannot simply be inferred from market prices.’ HM Treasury Green Book, Annex 2
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