In 2013 the Ministry of Defence announced the sale of Sir John Moore Barracks in Shrewsbury (also known as Copthorne Barracks) as part of a major sell-off from the Ministry of Defence estate. Part of the reason for the disposal of much of the military estate is to comply with the government’s targets on the provision of affordable homes as well as budget restraints.
This training depot had been the home of The Light Infantry since it was built for purpose as part of the Cardwell army reforms over 138 years ago. The barracks finally closed its gates in early 2015, but there has been difficulty finding a purchaser.
Pictured from left to right: Norman McGuigan, Campaign Leader for the veterans’ group; David Fairclough, Shropshire Council, AFC champion; Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shropshire; and Councillor Mal Price.
In August of 2016 a consultation process began, during which an outline planning proposal was made public for the demolition of the majority of the local Copthorne red brick buildings, to be replaced with 174 residential properties, nine apartments within the Cardwell keep and forty-five retirement properties.
By chance, some veteran infantrymen discovered a public consultation open day on proposed plans for the Barracks was taking place and attended. Some travelled from different parts of the country to attend. Questions were asked and objections raised at the open day. Following this a campaign group was set up, called “Bring Sir John Moore Barracks back to life.“ Written objections to the development and demolition of the buildings have been lodged, and veterans travelled from around the country to attend a march in protest on the 26th of November last. Further protest marches are planned in various parts of the country, reflecting the recruitment areas covered by the barracks . This evidences the nationwide veteran interests in what happens to the home of the Infantry .
A petition was started and the goals of the group are as follows:
1. To save some of the buildings as heritage assets . None hold this status at this present time, including the keep. This is a goal shared by Shrewsbury councillors.
2. The site was purchased by the government and the Barracks built of local red Copthorne brick as part of the Cardwell reforms. The planning use of the site has been C2A - secure residential institution - including military barracks since it was built. I am objecting to its change of use to C3 - purely residential - without some part of it reflecting the continuing heritage of the site and the long-established military connections with the local community.
3. To have at least part of the site used for the benefit of veterans in need with connection with 2 above. I envisage such use for veterans who are homeless, and assisted living accommodation for veterans with both physical and mental injuries resulting from their service. I view this as a opportunity for the government to demonstrate in a tangible way its own commitment to its moral obligations under the Armed Forces Covenant.
By Norman McGuigan