Since getting the Secretary of State for Defence to Norton Manor Camp to see the marine base for himself I have continued making the case for retaining 40 Commando where they are. Having looked at the situation from all sides the idea of moving the unit to become part of a marines superbase in Plymouth by 2028 doesn’t seem to hold water in many respects and it is debatable whether it represents good value for money to the tax payer.
Clearly ensuring the defence estate, (which comprises an incredible 2% of our land,) is fit for purpose to support our armed forces through the changing demands it faces, is the right thing to do. However, given that upwards of £50m has been invested on the site at Norton Manor in recent years it seems crazy to abandon it. Money has been spent on an up to date vehicle maintenance facility, an enviable gym and rehab centre, new accommodation and HQ, upgraded underground utilities to the tune of £3m and £3/4 m on a wellness and family centre that is about to open. Transforming the antiquated facility in Plymouth to this standard would potentially cost a great deal more and could take many years.
Aside from the investment considerations the site is well placed to access training grounds and other bases; it provides employment for over 150 people and with many marines families settling in the area makes a major contribution to the local economy. I was struck by the number of people from the area getting work at Norton Manor camp (electricians, security services for example) when I was out on the streets over the weekend gathering support for my petition.
I presented the petition to Gavin Williamson, the SOS on Monday as the last stage of a concerted campaign involving many meetings in Westminster with the support of local stakeholders, to make a final case for keeping 40 Commando where they are. Releasing a small piece of unused development may also add weight to the case. My petition demonstrated how much locals want ‘our’ marines to stay. Here’s to them enjoying the freedom of the town for a long time to come.