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Rumours of early closure at Invicta Park barracks in Maidstone denied


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Rumours that Invicta Park barracks in Maidstone may close earlier than the scheduled date in 2027 have been denied.

Maidstone council, which is planning to include the barracks site for housing development in its Local Plan Review which currently out to consultation, said: "The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced in 2016 that the Invicta Barracks site in Maidstone would be vacated in 2027.

A home coming parade from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010, at the Invicta Barracks in Maidstone Picture: Matthew Reading
A home coming parade from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010, at the Invicta Barracks in Maidstone Picture: Matthew Reading

"The council has not received any information to suggest that this date has changed."

However, personnel from 36 Engineers told members of the public attending the Remembrance Day services on Sunday that they expected to quit Maidstone much earlier than 2027.

The Maidstone council spokesman added: "As such, the Maidstone Adopted Local Plan identified the site as a longer-term opportunity to deliver new housing and associated infrastructure and it is included as draft policy LPRSP5(B) in our Regulation 19 Draft Local Plan Review."

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant, who has previously campaigned against the closure of the barracks, said: "The Committee of Public Accounts published a report on October 12 regarding concerns about slow progress on the defence estate disposals that were first announced in 2016, under the Defence Estate Optimisation programme.

"Maidstone’s Invicta Park Barracks is a part of that programme, and is presently scheduled to close by 2027.

"I agree that our military estate should be tailored to suit our strategic needs, but Maidstone is a special case that requires special consideration, and that is the impact of closure on the long-established and much-loved Nepalese community here.

The Queen visited Invicta Park Barracks, Maidstone, in February 2011 Picture: Ruth Cuerden
The Queen visited Invicta Park Barracks, Maidstone, in February 2011 Picture: Ruth Cuerden

"I await the government’s response to this report, which is due by the end of December. I will also continue to press for a robust impact assessment to be carried out and properly considered before any irreversible decisions have been made about Invicta Park."

The report argued that the country's defence estate was "unnecessarily large" and that the huge amount of money spent on maintaining it was taking away from front-line resources.

The closure will will end an association between the County Town and the Army that dates from 1798, when the first permanent barracks was established in the town in response to the growing threat from Revolutionary France across the Channel.

Invicta Park Barracks, in Maidstone Picture: Grant Falvey
Invicta Park Barracks, in Maidstone Picture: Grant Falvey

That first barracks, has long since gone. The only remaining building is the Miller and Carter Steakhouse (formerly the White Rabbit) in Sandling Road, which had been the officer’s mess.

In 1965, the Invicta Park Barracks opened, only a short walk away.

As of 2017, the barracks was home to 800 personnel from the 36 Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers and the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, as well as their families.

The closure was announced as part of the Ministry of Defence's Better Defence Estate Strategy, with plans to shut 91 bases by 2040, making room for 55,000 homes.

At the time, the government said the military was 30% smaller than it was in the 1990s but the estate had only decreased in size by 9%.

The decision was met with serious concerns by Helen Grant and the Public and Commercial Services Union, which called for the MoD to reconsider, arguing the effect on the Gurkas would be particularly severe.

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