Hundreds of Army Air Corps troops in move to RNAS Yeovilton
Six hundred Army personnel will relocate to south Somerset over the next few years, the Western Gazette can reveal.
The move will see 1 Regiment Army Air Corps troops housed at RNAS Yeovilton as well as in homes in nearby towns and villages.
As part of the withdrawal of British forces in Germany, the regiment will move from Gutersloh to join more than 3,000 Royal Navy personnel, civil servants and contractors already based at the site.
The Army’s fleet of 34 new Wildcat helicopters will also be based at Yeovilton where they will be housed alongside the 28 to be operated by the Royal Navy.
The profile of the Army Air Corps has risen considerably in recent months with its highest profile member Prince Harry touring Afghanistan with an Apache helicopter regiment in combat.
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the Ministry of Defence’s property and services provider, is looking to find a site for 150 married quarters in south Somerset.
Among the villages and towns being looked at include Yeovil, Ilchester and Wincanton.
It is understood that the MoD will look to buy or lease homes from private housing developments that have already been built or are in the process of being built, as opposed to building their own.
But this week Yeovilton bosses stressed no decisions had been made and that talks were ongoing between the MoD, local authorities and other key stakeholders.
Some of the troops will be based at the air station where new accommodation will be built. Others will buy their own homes.
Next week Ilchester and Yeovilton parish councils will meet with representatives from the base to discuss the proposals.
Further talks will then take place with local parishes when the details are finalised.
The plans are set to secure the long-term future of the station and have been welcomed by locals.
South Somerset district councillor Tony Capozzoli, whose ward includes the base, said “It is great news for the economy of south Somerset that we can welcome the Army personnel and their families.
“It is my hope that they will live locally in and around the base and provide a much-welcome boost to Ilchester.
“We are proud of our forces link and I know the local businesses support this.”
Town and district councillor David Norris, who is involved with numerous community groups in Wincanton, said he could see benefit in housing the new troops in the town.
He said: “Wincanton would welcome the personnel and their families with open arms. Wincanton is a great place to live we have the high street and some wonderful facilities including a fantastic sports ground and sports centre which are under-utilised.
“We will certainly have the potential to house them and speaking as someone who moved to Wincanton when I came here to work at RNAS Yeovilton, I can certainly recommend it.”
Yeovil manufacturer AgustaWestland designed and built the Wildcat and is delivering 62 aircraft to the Army and Navy as part of a £1bn contract.
The company will run a £76-million training centre for the helicopters at the base.
The Wildcat is replacing the veteran Lynx helicopter.