COMMUNITY leaders spoke of their sadness last night over the closure of one of the region's military bases, as part of a £240m-a-year cost-cutting drive.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced that Claro Barracks, in Ripon, North Yorkshire, was among seven across Britain tol be axed over the next few years.

The shake-up is designed to pave the way for the smooth return of all 15,500 British troops based in Germany, with 70 per cent due back by 2016.

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It spells good news for Catterick Garrison, which will be “consolidated” as one of seven main centres for Army.

As part of that process, the 21 Engineer Regiment – currently based at Claro Barracks – will move to Catterick, probably in 2017.

Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Hammond said, of the cull: “The local communities in each of these areas have been hugely supportive of the military presence over many years.

“The loss of historic ties will be much regretted and, on behalf of the Army, I want to thank those communities for their generous hosting.”

Mr Hammond also announced that: + 15 (NE) Brigade will be re-named HQ North East Brigade and move its headquarters from Imphal Barracks, in York, to Catterick.

  • Headquarters 1 (UK) Division will move from Herford, in Germany, to York in 2015
  •  Catterick will also be home to the newly-formed Headquarters 4th Infantry Brigade + The 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, 32 Engineer Regiment (Close Support), 1 Regiment Royal Military Police and
  • Military Intelligence Battalion will move from Germany to Catterick in 2015.
  • They will replace 3 Medical Regiment (moving to Preston), 5 Medical Regiment (moving to Tidworth) and 1 Scots Guards (moving to Aldershot).
  •  The Light Dragoons will move from Swanton Morley to Catterick in 2015.
  •  2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment will move from Cyprus to Catterick in 2015.

Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said the loss of Claro was a blow to Ripon, a city with a “proud military history”.

He said: “During the First World War, Ripon accommodated 30,000 soldiers as one of the main centres for the organisation of troops being sent to and returning from the Front.

“Ripon was also where the great war poet, Wilfred Owen, wrote many of his most famous works.

“I will be meeting defence ministers and doing all I can to ensure that those currently based in Ripon and affected by this decision are given all the support possible.”

Councillor Andrew Williams, mayor of Ripon, said: “I was really disappointed to hear the news. The Army are valued and respected members of the Ripon community and we have a long history of working together.

“It is particularly bad news when the regiment is just weeks away from completing a six-month tour of duty and is returning home to face uncertainty.”

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