THE Royal Marines' base at Norton Manor will NOT close, it has been announced.

The Government has announced a u-turn over the closure plans, which would have seen the Norton Fitzwarren camp shut by 2028.

It comes after concerted campaigns against the closure of Norton Manor by your County Gazette, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Gideon Amos and Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow.

Ms Pow is due to visit the base, near Taunton, with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson this afternoon to formally announce the decision.

Lt Col (Rtd) Kevin de Val, who helped launch the County Gazette campaign, said: "This is terrific news for all of us.

"For the personnel of 40 Commando and their families, it brings to an end two and a half years of uncertainty and allows them to stay in the community of Taunton, which is what they want - a secure base they can call home.

"For the people of Taunton, it keeps their long tradition of hosting a regular military unit and strengthens the close ties between the Royal Marines and the town.

"For the taxpayer, it means that the large investment in making Norton Manor Camp a first class unit base will not go to waste.

"I am pleased that common sense has prevailed." 

MP Ms Pow said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the Secretary of State has taken heed of the comprehensive case I made to keep the base open, backed up by the local community, the council and the Marines themselves.

"I am delighted that the original decision to close the camp has been reversed. In my campaign I focused on the significant investment (upwards of £50 million) made to make the site fit for purpose well into the future and representing good value for the taxpayer; its location providing easy access to training areas and other defence centres and of course the contribution the Marines make to the local economy.

"I believe what really had an impact was getting the SofS (Secretary of State) to Norton Manor himself to see the situation on the ground.

READ MORE: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson visits 40 Commando during Taunton trip 

"I followed this with a letter, further meetings and the presentation of my petition which demonstrated huge public support for keeping 40 Commando in Taunton.

"I’d like to express sincere thanks to all those who have supported this endeavour, including the local community, the council and 40 Commando themselves.

"I would especially like to thank the Secretary of State for his understanding and for facilitating this turnaround.

"It means a great deal for the military and non-military personnel based at the camp and indeed for the whole town which has taken 40 Commando to its heart."

Somerset County Gazette:
VISIT: Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson visited Taunton - and Norton Manor Camp - earlier this month

Mr Williamson said: “The announcement today confirms that as a result of assessment work my department no longer intends to close Norton Manor Camp in Taunton.

"I recognise the strength of feeling in the local community about Norton Manor Camp and the assiduous, determined campaign Rebecca has led to retain it. She has left no stone unturned in highlighting her case. She is a tremendous advocate for 40 Commando in her constituency and it really was her dedication to the cause that encouraged my Department to reconsider.

"I have made the decision to retain the camp as it has an ongoing defence use, it will offer better value for money and it better supports military capability."

Mr Amos, who launched a petition against the closure plan in 2016, added: "This is an amazing result, not just for the campaign I was delighted to start, but more importantly for the Royal Marines and their families and for the thousands of people who backed the campaign with the help of many local people including retired Lt Col Kevin Deval and local Lib Dems Ed Firmin and Dixie Darch in Norton Fitzwarren. 

"Getting the two Councils on board showed we were making real progress and the County Gazette made a big difference too. 

“When we all work together for those who put their lives on the line, to secure the best defence for our country, to keep our local community strong and for what we believe and when we work at those objectives together, there is nothing we can’t achieve."

The Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, Cllr John Williams, said: “I am delighted that Taunton will be able to maintain its long association with the Royal Marines.

"We have enjoyed strong links with 40 Commando over the years. We have mourned their losses and celebrated their many successes; and have a great respect and appreciation of them.

"The unit was given the Freedom of the Borough – the highest honour the Council can confer – in 2003. They have exercised that Freedom by parading through the town on a number of occasions, most recently to mark 35 years at Norton Manor Camp in 2018.

"These events give everyone a chance to demonstrate their support and respect for 40 Commando – which is always evident through the great numbers who attend.

"We are rightly proud of their history and service to our country, and are thankful for their unwavering support of the County town, that is not only home to 40 Commando but many of their families as well.”

READ MORE: TIMELINE: How the closure of Norton Manor was announced - then reversed...

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