The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has received consent to demolish barracks blocks which have been condemned as being of the “lowest grade” after housing thousands of Army recruits over decades.
A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee heard while the two Infantry Training Centre buildings would be fondly remembered by some former soldiers, bulldozing them was considered the best form of action to provide modern and sustainable living accommodation.
The proposal will see a 4,230sq m three-storey building replacing the former blocks, one of which has been identified as a non-designated heritage asset, being one of two Sandhurst Blocks remaining from a group of three that were constructed between 1938 -1940.
Although the modernisation scheme will result in a net loss of 171 bed spaces, it is intended that a subsequent planning application will be made for a second, similar accommodation bloc to provide the full requirement of 300 bed spaces.
The proposal at the Infantry Training Centre at Vimy Barracks, off Scotton Road, forms part of an on-going programme of works at Catterick Garrison.
A report submitted by the MoD stated the condition of the accommodation for single service personnel was “extremely variable and the poor condition of some buildings has a significant effect on recruitment and retention and ultimately on the ability of the services to deliver operational capability”.
The report stated: “The Army recognises the importance of the issue and is committed to improving the condition of its single living accommodation as a priority. The accommodation in the two buildings identified for demolition as part of this application has been assessed as Grade 4, the lowest grade, in urgent need of being addressed.”
The application also highlighted the MoD’s Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach and identifies the need to reduce emissions on its built estate by at least 30 per cent by 2025.
The papers state: “The replacement of the building was the best option all round to provide a near zero carbon standard development.”
Councillor Angie Dale, the authority’s leader and a former soldier, said while the MoD had invested millions in an excellent transformation of buildings in nearby barracks, the proposed accommodation building “looks like a prison block”.
However, she added: “It is functional and it is what is needed.”
Another former solder, Councillor Kevin Foster said the existing accommodation blocks infrastructure was “forever causing the military a problem and it is time to move on”.
He added: “These accommodation blocks are very historic to anybody who has ever served. To see them go will be quite a shame, but they are just not fit for purpose.”