Plans for Royal Marines 'super-base' in Plymouth are shelved
PLANS to create a Royal Marines 'super-base' in the Plymouth area have been shelved "for the foreseeable future".
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond suggested a hoped move to the city for Marines currently based in Scotland would fail to materialise.
But the Cabinet Minister stopped short of ruling out the Scottish-based commandos making the move down to the region at some point in the future.
The Secretary of State told MPs at Westminster that 45 Commando would remain in Arbroath, Scotland, for "the foreseeable future".
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It had been planned for around 800 Marines and 200 support staff move to the region in 2016.
One option raised as part of a potential consolidation of naval training sites was relocating 45 Commando to HMS Raleigh in Torpoint.
Plymouth is already home to Stonehouse-based 3 Commando Brigade, 42 Commando at Bickleigh, and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery at the Citadel.
And plans are under way to bring Royal Marines' amphibious facilities together at Devonport from their current bases in Poole, in Dorset, and at Turnchapel.
The change of heart on re-locating 45 Commando in the medium-term has officially been put down to concerns that North Sea oil and gas platforms would be left unprotected if the Marines were relocated from Scotland to the South West.
While it will inevitably be suspected that the reason is more political, coming ahead of upcoming referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, defence insiders believe it could be linked to the complex logistics of the move to the South West. Naval training is currently carried out at both HMS Raleigh, for ratings, and the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, for officers.
Bringing this together on a single site is set to cost time and significant amounts of money, as well as adapting facilities for the arrival of the Royal Marines.
Making the announcement on the base review in the Commons, Mr Hammond said: "With 45 Commando, Royal Marines, remaining in Arbroath for the foreseeable future, the measures announced will see an increase of about 600 in total regular Armed Forces numbers north of the border, even as the armed forces reduce in size by about 17 per cent overall."
The decision has sparked concerns, and led to official reassurances being sought.
Devonport-based ships were scrapped and city sailors' jobs lost as part of the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2011.
Plymouth's Type 22 frigates were ditched, and moves to cut the Navy by around 5,000 personnel were set into action.
It was hoped the impact of the SDSR would be offset by the region gaining the Scottish-based Marines.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and a Shadow Defence Minister, said: "I was surprised to hear in the Government statement that 45 Commando were for the time being remaining in Scotland.
"I am therefore intending to seek reassurance from ministers that there have been no other changes made to plans around the amphibious centre in Plymouth, not least because the additional personnel that are and were expected in and around our city are important to our local economy."
Former Lib Dem Defence Minister Nick Harvey added: "My reading is that the Marines super-base won't come about any time soon.
"But I don't think it has gone from the planning board forever."