Army veterans vow to fight plan to demolish barracks in £1bn MoD sell-off

Army veterans have vowed to fight plans to demolish their former barracks in Shrewsbury to make way for 200 new homes.

After more than 130 years as home to the Light Infantry, the Sir John Moore Barracks - also known as Copthorne Barracks - closed its gates two years ago after being declared surplus to requirements.

It is one of a number of sites being sold off by the Ministry of Defence, which plans to offload 30 per cent of its land and buildings by 2040 in a bid to raise an extra £1 billion for the defence budget.

Most of the sites will be used to build new homes to help tackle the housing crisis, with an estimated 55,000 new properties set to crop up on former MoD land.

Bosses are hoping 228 of these - a mixture of houses, apartments and retirement flats - will be built on the site of the barracks.

The barracks closed in 2014 Credit: ITV Central

But former Light Infantrymen based in Shrewsbury told ITV Central they are “disgusted” by the proposals.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” Norman McGuigan, who is fronting the campaign, said.

“Its about the history, the heritage, the museum. The money that these barracks have brought in over the years, the reunions that we have here year on year.

“The infrastructure's not here for housing - it can be put to better use.”

He said he would like to see the barracks transformed into a rehabilitation centre for servicemen suffering with mental or physical difficulties after returning from the battlefield.

The barracks were home to the Light Infantry for more than 130 years Credit: ITV Central

John Redfern first arrived at the barracks in 1975, and said walking through the gates for the first time was the “best memory” he had.

"For them to turn around and say that they're going to get rid of it, after all the history that's walked through there, the men that have walked through there, the boys that have walked through there, donned the beret that I'm wearing now and have died with it on - it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

“We lived together, worked together, learned to fend and fight together. There were good times and bad times, but we loved it.”

Dozens of people have already lodged objections with council planners, including local councillors.

Under the plans, the buildings will be knocked down Credit: ITV Central

Cllr Peter Nutting turned out to support the protesters in a rain-soaked event outside the barracks gates today.

“I’m most concerned as a long-term Shrewsbury resident that we're going to lose a lot of the character of the barracks,” he said.

“I’m trying to retain some of the buildings on site, particularly the officers' mess and some of the accommodation blocks, so that when any development takes place you still retain some of the character that's existed here for the last 100 years or more.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said it hoped the plans would be waved through in the coming months.

The MOD is committed to creating a Defence estate that effectively supports modern military capability and is working to reduce the size of its estate by 30 per cent by 2040. As part of this we are releasing sites which are surplus to Defence requirements, including Copthorne Barracks.

The Copthorne Barracks site is currently being taken through the planning and sale process by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation with the aim of securing a beneficial planning consent by early 2017 and sale by mid-2017.

– MoD spokeswoman