Call for veterans to get cheap homes on old Shrewsbury barracks

Copthorne barracks
Image caption Copthorne barracks is one of dozens of MoD sites being sold off to make way for thousands of new homes

Ex servicemen and women should have priority to affordable homes on a former barracks site, a council has said.

Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury was one almost of 100 sites put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence last year as part of a major restructuring.

Shropshire Council said rules for such sites meant as few as six affordable homes may be built, despite demand.

The MoD said it had a duty to maximise value for taxpayers.

Councillor Malcolm Price, in charge of planning at Shropshire Council, said the proposed development of 230 homes on the Shrewsbury site would have usually meant about 46 affordable homes.

However, he said the Vacant Buildings Credit (VBC), used in the sale of ex MoD sites across the country, reduced the commitment to build affordable homes on land currently occupied by redundant buildings, thereby increasing its appeal to prospective developers.

If it could be overturned, Mr Price said it would be fitting if some of the extra affordable homes could be set aside for former soldiers, given the history of the site.

Image caption Veterans groups have lobbied to keep some historical features of the base

Shropshire Council said it was considering challenging the VBC policy, which it said was letting down former soldiers.

The Armed Forces Covenant, signed by both the government and numerous councils, pledges to support current and former members of the British Armed Forces, including access to affordable homes.

The MoD said the sale of Copthorne Barracks was part of the Better Defence Estate Strategy, "reinvesting over £4bn to help ensure a modern estate fit for personnel and their families".

"We are committed to supporting our veterans, and under the Armed Forces Covenant councils must give preference to veterans with urgent housing needs," a spokesperson said.

"We have already allocated £40m of LIBOR funds to projects which provide veterans accommodation."

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