THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition to try keep the Royal Marines' base in Norton Fitzwarren.

LibDem Parliamentary spokesman in Taunton Deane Gideon Amos wants the Government to reverse its decision to close Norton Manor Camp in 2028.

It was announced in 2016 as part of the Better Defence Estate strategy that the base was among 56 Ministry of Defence sites that would close - along with 35 previously announced.

It would mean 40 Commando, which recently paraded through Taunton to mark 35 years in the area, being relocated, probably to Plymouth.

Mr Amos said: "On Armed Forces Day, we rightly celebrated our local Royal Marine Commandos and thanked them for their contribution to our country's defence.

"Let us not forget that Norton Manor camp is due for closure within the next 10 years, with great loss to our community and local economy in Taunton Deane.

Somerset County Gazette:

Gideon Amos

"It is staggering that just after the Government promised the relocations would involve no job cuts, a Government report revealed proposals to cut the Royal Marines by up to 2,000 and scrap two amphibious assault ships.

"These plans were described as 'militarily illiterate' by an all-party committee of MPs.

"The versatility of their military skills means that the Royal Marines punch well above their weight in their contribution to the nation's defence."

Mr Amos said the Commandos are valued by the Taunton Deane community and "increasingly necessary to our defence", as seen by their work earlier this year helping clean up Salisbury following the Novichok attack on two Russians.

He added: "The fact that the Conservative Government is planning to close the camp and is considering savage cuts to the Royal Marines just shows how out of touch they are.

"Thousands have already supported my petition, and with almost ten years to go before the closure we have every chance to stop it and reverse this damaging decision."

Norton Manor Camp would be sold after the Royal Marines leave.

An MoD spokesman said 40 Commando are still scheduled to leave Norton Manor Camp in ten years.

He added: "The plan for Norton Manor Camp remains unchanged from that set out in the Better Defence Estate announcement.

"The MoD’s intention is to relocate the Marine unit as part of the South West consolidation programme and dispose of the site."

Writing in the County Gazette last week, Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said: "I am working to ensure the Secretary of State for Defence is fully aware of the versatile role our Marines play as it relates to the current review of the defence estate and I am certainly drawing attention to the part they play in local life."

Somerset County Gazette:

Rebecca Pow.