The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been hailed for its consideration of the environment and the the lives of military personnel and their families after revealing blueprints for hundreds of homes that are set to be built as part of a shake-up of the Army.
Members of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee enthusiastically approved detailed plans of the first of two housing estates in Catterick Garrison to house the families of personnel, with one councillor suggesting the properties should be used to set the standards by which private developers must reach.
Since being established in 1915, the British Army’s largest Garrison town has often had a deficit of housing for the dependants of its military population, so families have been housed in relatively costly lease hire properties in places such as Darlington and Leeming Bar, or even at hotels.
The new estates, off Horne Road and Wensleydale Road, also aim to contribute to boost the amount of service family accommodation arising from the national Strategic Defence and Security Review, in which the government committed to bringing all military units back from Germany by 2020.
Troop numbers at Catterick Garrison are expected to rise by more than 50 per cent by 2031, leading recent MoD studies to estimate more than 300 homes are needed for the families of personnel.
As councillors considered the MoD’s plans for the appearance, landscaping, layout and scale of 128 detached and semi-detached properties off Wensleydale Road, it emerged the properties would be made to be zero carbon, with solar panels and ground source heat pumps.
The meeting was told the MoD had managed to “avoid an overly regimented layout” and Councillor Helen Grant described the estate’s design and landscaping as “sympathetic” to the brownfield site, which includes the former Le Cateau Lines base and the site of the former Harden Barracks.
In a reversal of the concerns raised about many housing estate proposals, councillors praised the MoD for proposing to site 43 fewer homes on the 22-acre site than it had been given outline permission for five years ago and the provision of sufficient parking spaces for each property.
The meeting heard the MoD had also moved to allay concerns over rights of way, including the loss of a bridleway which had been described as “a devastating blow” to the area’s horse riders.
Green councillor Kevin Foster said the estate would be the first to feature the carbon-cutting technology since the authority agreed to explore requiring new-build houses to use sustainable energy sources as it declared a climate emergency two years ago.
Councillor Foster said he applauded the MoD for the quality of the homes it was looking to provide as the families of personnel had often had poor accommodation in the past.
He said he was optimistic the estate would set the standard for all future estates in the district, but added “the proof will be in the pudding”.
Councillor Foster said: “Military personnel deserve the best housing and if the MoD provides the right housing it might cure the recruitment and retention problems they are facing.
“If soldiers have nice places to live they might want to stay in the Army longer.”