BY NEWS REPORTER
An MP has attracted thousands of signatures to a petition against the closure of Woolwich Barracks.
Matthew Pennycook, who represents Greenwich and Woolwich in the House of Commons, will present the petition to the Government in a bid to halt the sell-off. Woolwich depends on the barracks and should stay a garrison town, he said.
The Ministry of Defence announced plans two years ago to sell the site for redevelopment as part of a plan to cut its land holdings by a third.
The buildings there have been in use since 1802 and in 1973 the barracks were designated as a Grade II* listed building.
Fusilier Lee Rigby, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who had served there, was attacked and killed by Islamists nearby in May 2013.
But Mr Pennycook said: “There has been an unbroken military presence in Woolwich for more than three centuries.
“The imprint of the armed forces on our town can be seen everywhere, from its architecture to its street names.
“Yet the three century old bond between our community and our armed forces is now at risk as a result of the Conservative Government’s decision to close Woolwich barracks by 2028 and sell-off the land for development.
“I am opposed to the Government’s plans to close the barracks and believe the case for selling it off simply doesn’t stack up.
“For all the change that is taking place locally, Woolwich remains a garrison town – our history and identity are intertwined with our armed forces.
“It would be a travesty if an association that has lasted for over 300 years was ended now for anything other than the most incontrovertible of reasons.
“The Government needs to think again. “Please help me show ministers in Whitehall the strength of local feeling against their plans.”
One serving soldier, Kenny Janes, tweeted: “Was born in Woolwich and currently serving. This would be an absolute kick in the teeth if it was removed, why are they even thinking of it?”
Another, Josephine Pye, said: “In last 50 years, Woolwich has reinvented itself as one financial linchpin after another has come and gone. Had hoped for some stability with King’s Troop. Crashed again.
As Woolwich born and bred, I’m extremely unhappy.”
Nick Gunning added: “The wholesale sell-off of public assets marches on. “It cannot fill the black hole caused by austerity but it does follow the hard-right project to turn the state into minority shareholders in a massive private co-operation.
Bye bye democratic accountability.” But Derek Murray said: “The defence budget is stretched; historical inner city barracks are worth a fortune; there are any number of empty barracks/airfields in the country sitting empty that units could be moved to. Inevitable.”