Rutland County Council: Releasing Ministry of Defence surplus estate

In addition to the land released for around 3,000 housing units by 2032, the project will generate potential for £30 million in capital receipts, £1 billion in investment and the creation of more than 2,000 jobs by 2026/27.


The challenge

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is one of the largest landholding government departments and, as such, an important strategic partner for the OPE programme and the councils involved. The MoD’s strategy ‘A Better Defence Estate’ (November 2016) aims to reduce the estate by 30 per cent by 2040 by releasing 130,000 hectares from 91 surplus sites.

In the strategy, the MoD published the decision to close St George’s Barracks, located in the Rutland County Council area, in 2021/22. Rutland is the smallest unitary council in England and covers an area measuring just 16 miles by 17 miles. The 300 hectare St George’s Barracks site is the single biggest and highest priority site for the council in the locality, considered vital to supporting sustainable growth and meeting housing needs.

The vision

The ambition is to transform this 300 hectare brownfield site, which lies in an accessible and attractive location, by delivering up to 3,000 homes by 2032 in a new ‘garden village’. This would be at a pace of 300 housing units per year from 2021/22, utilising innovative delivery approaches including modern methods of construction. The site will also include an enterprise zone and a leisure and recreation area. The site will be developed over a 10-15 year programme commencing with a ‘plot ready’ site, building on experience from across the country from successful garden village projects.

Action taken/planned

Rutland County Council is a recent addition to the OPE programme and was awarded £175,000 in December 2017 for project management, consultation, surveys and master planning of the St George’s Barracks site.

Following the announcement of the closure of the barracks in 2016, the council engaged with OPE regional programme managers. Substantive progress has been made in developing a local partnership between the council and the MoD, evidenced by an innovative memorandum of understanding, which underpins a new style of public/private partnership to deliver joined up de-risking and master planning, to establish partner objectives, and define roles and milestones for bringing forward the site.

Underpinning this approach has been close collaboration between the two partners. A series of workshops has been held, enabling them to work through issues. This has included the development of the master planning process, support for the Housing Infrastructure Fund bid and high-level financial planning for the project.

The workshops have included a range of staff from both organisations and have been key to moving the project on with a shared vision and understanding of what needs to be done.

Outcomes

In addition to the land released for around 3,000 housing units by 2032, the project will generate potential for £30 million in capital receipts, £1 billion in investment and the creation of more than 2,000 jobs by 2026/27.

The OPE team has provided essential advice, expertise and good practice in developing the memorandum of understanding, together with the added value of the programme in helping to raise ambition and capacity locally. There is wide consensus that OPE engagement had accelerated the planning and development process by at least 12 months. This is partly due to an enhanced relationship with the MoD but also by encouraging the council to act more quickly. The ‘badge effect’ of the programme has added weight too and validated the proposals, giving the council the confidence to invest its own resources and senior officer time.

As one of the pre-selection criteria, a local board was set up comprising Rutland County Council, MoD/Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Greater Cambridge and Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, Homes England, East Leicestershire & Rutland CCG and Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service to coordinate and drive project delivery. The board has provided a useful mechanism for securing senior level buy-in.

Next steps

The St George’s Barracks scheme is progressing well with the MoD, which is due to vacate in 2021/22. Rutland County Council will review a number of expressions of interest in the enterprise park opportunities that will deliver high-value jobs and significant investment.

The high level master plan has been launched and work will continue to develop a more detailed master plan, with a planning application expected in 2019.

Rutland County Council Leader, Councillor Oliver Hemsley, said: “St George’s can have a profoundly positive effect on Rutland and our quality of life here – providing new homes for families, space for businesses to grow and supporting the development of our local economy.”