|Chapter 6 - Land Holdings and Buildings|
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is one of the largest landowners in the country, with an estate equal to over 1% of the UK land mass. The estate, spread over approximately 4,000 sites, is critical to the effectiveness of the Armed Forces. It is used for training and accommodation and provides a base from which operations can be instigated.
The total area (freehold and leasehold) of the Defence Estate is some 238 thousand hectares with additional rights and grants of over 133 thousand hectares. It is held solely to support the delivery of Defence capability. Defence Estates (DE) manages property assets ranging from barracks and airfields to rural training areas. These are valued at about £20 billion. The annual cost of new construction, maintenance and property management is over £2 billion.
Since 2009 there has been a decrease of approximately 700 hectares in the freehold land reflecting the ongoing disposal programme of surplus land. Significant sites disposed of during this period included the airfields at RAF Alconbury & Dunkeswell, Royal Hospital Haslar at Gosport, part of the former RAF Benbecula in Scotland and properties in Northern Ireland as part of the normalisation process.
Following a review of the process by which the statistics on the land holdings have been previously prepared, a new method is in development using the Defence Property Gazetteer (DPG) as the future prime source of data. This takes advantage of the advances that have occurred in computerised mapping to provide a more accurate representation of the extent of the Defence Estate, to reflect current estate management processes and align these statistics with others reported to Parliament such as the National Asset Register. The new method is currently work in progress but is expected to be fully implemented to deliver the predicted benefits illustrated above for UKDS 2011. The new process will, in addition, offer greater flexibility in reporting options and the opportunity to include different statistics in the future.
For more information, visit the Defence Estates website at: www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/Microsite/DE/
Table 6.1 shows the area of land occupied by each Service and whether owned, leased or with legal rights. The MOD owns 238 thousand hectares of land and foreshore. The area occupied by the RAF has fallen reflecting the disposal of sites such as the airfield at RAF Alconbury and that of the Navy following the sale of Dunkeswell airfield. The decrease in other areas is too small to show in the figures as these are rounded to the nearest 100 ha.
Table 6.2 shows the area of MOD holdings by country. England accounts for the largest portion of MOD land holdings, where the MOD owns 187 thousand hectares and has access to a further 34 thousand hectares in rights and grants.
Table 6.3 shows the area of MOD holdings by type of use, such as airfields, training areas and barracks. Training areas occupy the largest area at 163 thousand hectares with additional rights and grants over a further 128 thousand hectares.
Larger areas of the Defence Estate
Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire
The Army has been connected with Salisbury Plain since 1897 and the total area of the current estate is just over 38,000 hectares. It is 25 miles by 10 miles (40km by 16km) and occupies about one ninth of the area of Wiltshire.
Much of the land is let to farmers or is grazed under license. Approximately 12,150 hectares of the land is used for live firing and as impact areas. Public access is permanently restricted in certain areas for safety reasons.
Catterick and Feldom Training Area, Yorkshire
The area's military history dates from as far back as 1798. Later, General Lord Baden-Powell, based in Richmond from 1908 to 1910, as GOC the Northumbrian Division, was tasked by the War Office to establish a military training centre in the north of England, and he chose Catterick. Its status as a permanent training centre was secured in 1921 and a period of intensive building followed. The land comprising the current training area was acquired between 1921 and 1985 and its current size is 7,870 hectares.
In conjunction with military training, Catterick Training Area is predominantly used for livestock grazing, while the better in-bye land is farmed more intensively for hay, silage and arable crops.
Otterburn Training Area, Northumberland
A military presence, in the form of Roman legions, existed in the Otterburn area as long ago as the first and second centuries AD. In 1911, the War Office bought 7,690 hectares of land and the artillery ranges were extended during the Second World War.
The training area now consists of some 22,900 hectares of land, all owned by the MOD, and is the largest single impact area range in the UK. It is partitioned into three separate Danger Areas: Redesdale Range, Otterburn Range, Bellshiels Demolition Area and has three Outside Gun Areas. Some 45,000 soldiers use the area each year. The Cheviot Dry Training Area is to the north of these areas. Otterburn Training Area also includes 2 ranges at Ponteland near Newcastle and at Whitburn on the coast between Newcastle and Sunderland. In 2007 DTE Otterburn expanded to include Ballykinler and Magilligan training areas in Northern Ireland.
Dartmoor Training Area, Devon
Military training has taken place on Dartmoor since the early 1800s, being used intensively for tactical exercises with live ammunition during the Second World War. Today the MOD uses (by freehold, lease or license) approximately 12,760 hectares of the National Park's 94,400 hectares. The Dartmoor Training Area is used for light forces' exercises, mostly for Royal Marines and other units based in the southwest.
There are three Range Danger Areas: Okehampton, Merrivale and Willsworthy, which when this land is not in use for live firing, provide for dry training with blank ammunition. There are smaller training areas at Cramber and Ringmoor.
RAF Spadeadam, Cumbria
Located on the edge of the Wark Forest between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish Borders, the site now occupied by the RAF used to be known as the Spadeadam Wastes, mostly remote and uninhabited, until 1957 when the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Test Centre was built.
RAF Spadeadam is home to the Electronic Warfare Tactics Range, one of two such facilities in Europe, offering a unique facility for the training of aircrews in a hostile Electronic Warfare environment. The Range is contained within Low Flying Area 13, which extends from Hawick in Scotland, South to Alston in England, and from Langholm in the West to Hexham in the East.
RAF Spadeadam provides realistic Electronic Warfare training for aircrew, primarily for the RAF, but other NATO Air Forces use the range as well.
The land area is about 3,642 hectares, making it the largest RAF Station in the UK. The majority of this land is sub-let for timber production to the Forestry Commission.
Sennybridge Training Area, Powys
Sennybridge Training Area (SENTA) the third largest training area in the UK is a major Field Firing Area. Requisitioned in 1939 and taken over as a Royal Artillery Practice Camp in 1940. It consists of some 12,000 hectares of land owned by the MOD on the Mynydd Epynt, a wild plateau covered largely by blanket bog and grass, and an additional 2,500 hectares leased from Forest Enterprises in the Crychan Forest available for limited training.
The Epynt Way a 56 mile (90 km) circular permissive bridleway that follows on or near to the boundary of SENTA was opened in 2004.
Service Family Accommodation - tables 6.4 & 6.5
The Defence Housing Executive (DHE) took over responsibility for housing services from the Armed Services on 1 April 1996. In November 1996 most of the MOD's housing stock in England and Wales was sold to a private company, Annington Homes Limited (AHL). The homes required for Service families were leased back, with the condition that the MOD release a minimum number of properties over 25 years for disposal by AHL.
On 1 April 2004 the DHE ceased to be a separate Agency and became part of DE. This organisation is now called the Defence Estates' Directorate of Operations Housing. DE Ops Housing retains responsibility for managing all the Service Family Accommodation (SFA) for the Royal Navy and Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force in the UK. It operates through a network of seven Housing Information Centres (HICs), in three regions, which report to the Directorate Head Office located at RAF Brampton in Cambridgeshire. The Director of Operations Housing reports to the Chief Operating Officer, DE.
Table 6.4 shows the numbers of Service Family Accommodation properties in the UK and the numbers and proportion vacant. There are around 49,000 properties in the UK, of which around 7,300 are currently vacant. There are around 40,000 occupants in England, Wales and Scotland, and around 1,000 in Northern Ireland.
Table 6.5 shows the surveyed condition of Service Family Accommodation properties within Great Britain. Around 91% of properties for which information is available were assessed as Standard 1 or 2 (good condition, or requiring minor improvements) as of 31st March 2010.