A NEPALESE community in the North-East is set to reach a "tipping point", following a surprise announcement that the number of Gurkhas in the British Army is to rise by a quarter.

Community leaders in Catterick Garrison said the move to bolster the Brigade of Gurkhas would see hundreds of recruits from the Himalayan country arriving for training in the coming years, and many of them would likely to return to the area to live in the area after their Army careers.

Army officials have said the Whitehall decision would significantly increase the 1,400 Nepalese residents of the town, where there has been a long-standing campaign for community facilities and services to help integrate Asian people.

Lieutenant General James Bashall has revealed the move at a passing out ceremony for nearly 240 recruits, some who were watched by friends and family living in the town.

All Gurkha soldiers undergo nine months of training at the Infantry Training Centre, in Catterick, which includes cultural integration trips to Darlington and Richmond.

Lt Gen Bashall said: "It is because of the excellent professionalism and first class reputation of Brigade of Gurkhas that we have decided to increase Brigade of Gurkhas by 25 per cent.

"This will see those on parade today offered far greater opportunity for longer service, wider employment and promotion.

Dr Jagannath Sharma, a principal physiotherapist at the Infantry Training Centre and Colburn Town councillor, said with up to 350 Nepalese recruits at the garrison at any time and an increasing number of ex-servicemen exercising their right to live in Britain after four years' service, political pressure would reach a tipping point for services and facilities.

He said: "The facilities are not sufficient, we do not even have a community hall, so we have quite a struggle to manage to integrate with the community.

"We would like to see further understanding of each other's cultures."

Dr Sharma, the only Nepalese councillor in the United Kingdom and chairman of the Himalayan Dales Cultural Hub, said among the first priorities for the community would be the provision of language lessons, as a number of older Nepalese struggled to understand English.

Richmondshire District Council leader Yvonne Peacock said she would hold talks about the announcement with the authority's chief officers to assess what it would mean for the area.

She said: "We are very proud of our Gurkhas and Nepalese community. We have good communications with them and are working to support them whichever way we can."