Waterbeach Barracks Closure – Housing Development Possible

11:21 Tuesday 19th July 2011
Mid-morning Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY HARPER: Thank you for your responses to this decision to close Waterbeach Barracks .. It’s part of a restructural change which will see the UK relying more on the Territorial Army to fight on the front line, as announced by Defence Secretary Liam Fox. James Hockney is the Conservative councillor for Waterbeach on South Cambridgeshire District Council. James, good morning to you.
JAMES HOCKNEY: Good morning.
ANDY HARPER: Dave there says, “This is a bit of a shock for Waterbeach.” Was it a bit of a shock for you?
JAMES HOCKNEY: Well certainly we’ve been taken aback by this news. Definitely. Waterbeach Barracks was a very important part of our community, going all the way back to the Second World War, and the Engineer Regiment are doing a fantastic job representing this country.
ANDY HARPER: And it will have a huge knock-on effect in terms of the infrastructure of the village itself. And there is always I suppose the expectation that more houses will replace it.
JAMES HOCKNEY: Well clearly at the moment we don’t know for sure. We saw with Northstowe, the old Oakington Barracks, that’s been going on for quite a few years now, and still there’s no houses there. So I think if anything moves forward it’s going to be quite some way off before we see any housing. But obviously our first priority is really to campaign to try and save the Barracks. It’s a very important part of our community. The Engineer Regiment do a fantastic job, and certainly we’re in touch with our local MP, and we’re going to be looking to meet with Liam Fox, hopefully as soon as possible about this.
ANDY HARPER: So even though it was announced by Liam Fox yesterday, you still think there is mileage in campaigning to try and save it?
JAMES HOCKNEY: Well I think it’s my duty to. It’s an extremely important part of our local community. The Engineer Regiment do a fantastic job. And certainly at the very least I’m going to be talking to my MP further about this, and trying to get a meeting with Liam Fox. Because it’s obviously going to have a very serious impact potentially on the local community.
ANDY HARPER: There was campaigning at RAF Marham for some time to keep it open. They had a very high profile, a high-pressure campaign, and it seems to have paid dividends. Was there no thought that Waterbeach was under threat, and so that’s why there was no campaign prior to Liam Fox’s announcement?
JAMES HOCKNEY: We certainly have had nothing on the grapevine that Waterbeach could be under threat, and obviously the news that we’ve received through has obviously come as a bit of a shock, and now we’ve got to respond to that.
ANDY HARPER: And just try and tell listeners who aren’t familiar with Waterbeach the sort of part that having a Barracks there plays in village life, and the particular regiment and people that are there at the moment.
JAMES HOCKNEY: It’s very much a part of our community. The Barracks has been here since the Second World War, and the service personnel there, they play a very active part in community activities in the community. So it’s very important to us. And clearly we’re going to have to see what we can do to make sure that that continues.
ANDY HARPER: Well it’s something which we shall watch with interest. And obviously if campaigns get under way, and developments take place then we’d like to hear from you James. So thanks for joining us this morning.
ANDY HARPER: That’s James Hockney, the Conservative councillor for Waterbeach on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Already elicited some response from you. This comes from Brendan. “It makes sense to redevelop the barracks into houses rather than build over more fields. So if it’s going to be abandoned by the MOD, then it’s best that it isn’t just left to go derelict. It does have a back route into Cambridge, and onto the westbound A14. It won’t be popular, but if the road was suitably upgraded, then the A10 may get less of a hammering than people are saying already.