King’s Troop to stay in Woolwich but rest of barracks to be sold

Woolwich Barracks © Crown Copyright 2013
Woolwich Barracks still faces sale under government plans (© Crown Copyright 2013, used under Open Government Licence)

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery is to stay in Woolwich, but the rest of the barracks is to be sold by the Ministry of Defence, the government announced this morning, bringing mixed news for local politicians’ campaign to keep SE18’s link with the military.

Jeremy Quin, the minister for defence procurement, said in a written statement this morning that while the MoD “will be enclaving Napier Lines at Woolwich Barracks as the long-term home for The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery”, the sale of the rest of the site “will continue as planned”.

Plans were first outlined by the government to close Woolwich Barracks in 2016, which envisaged the army moving out by 2028 as part of a wider programme of closures. Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook gathered over 4,000 signatures against the closure and has led the campaign against the closure.

He said on social media that while the King’s Troop staying in Woolwich was “fantastic news”, “my campaign to stop the sell-off of the remainder of the barracks site continues”.

Any sale would include a great swathe of land between Woolwich town centre and Woolwich Common, including the Royal Artillery Barracks, whose main building was completed in 1802. Woolwich Common itself is also owned by the Ministry of Defence, with Greenwich Council understood to be reluctant to take it on. The MoD also owns Repository Woods, between Charlton and Woolwich, behind the Napier Lines base of the Kings Troop.

The Royal Artillery moved out in 2007, with the King’s Troop moving from St John’s Wood to Woolwich in 2012.

Local Woolwich Common councillor David Gardner said the Troop, which carries out ceremonial duties and can regularly be seen riding in the area, are “so loved by the local community and [have] become a real feature in Woolwich and around”.

The military presence in Woolwich has been whittled down by closures and land sales over the decades. The army’s presence used to spread across both sides of Artillery Place, but the Cambridge Barracks and Red Barracks were closed and sold for council housing in the late 1960s, with only entrance lodges and perimeter walls remaining. The Royal Arsenal was closed in the 1990s, while the Royal Military Academy on Woolwich Common closed in 2002. There is still army housing on sites to the west of the common, which is still used for exercises.

Greenwich Council’s Conservative opposition leader, Nigel Fletcher, said: “It’s good news that the King’s Troop are to stay in Woolwich, where they have become a valued part of our local community, and represent a continuation of our links to the Royal Artillery. But I’m very disappointed that the threat of closure remains for the historic barracks. We now need the whole council and local community to renew our efforts to get the MoD to change their minds and keep the barracks open.”

Two petitions were set up to keep the barracks open; one hosted by Pennycook which attracted 4,000 signatures, and one by Greenwich Conservatives which has so far had over 5,000 signatures.

Updated to include Conservative comment and petitions.

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