Army marches into future as new base gets go-ahead

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IT was only ever meant to be a temporary home for Army chiefs at the outbreak of the Second World War.

But top brass liked Craigiehall in South Queensferry so much they decided to stay permanently. Now, almost 70 years on, multi-million-pound plans for a new headquarters building on the site have been passed by council chiefs and work is set to start next year.

More than 250 staff, a mixture of civilian and uniformed Army personnel, are based at Craigiehall, which is the home of HQ 2nd Division, the main Army administration base in Scotland.

Most staff currently work in the Annandale office complex, which was added to the site in the 1960s, but it is now considered unfit for purpose and will be demolished to make way for the new HQ.

The site also contains the A-listed Craigiehall House, home to the officers' mess, which dates back to 1699, and has a major extension which was added by the Army in the mid-1950s.

Alistair Burnett, of Waterson Burnett Architects, the Edinburgh-based firm which has drawn up the plans with the MoD, said refurbishment of the office block was not an option.

"The HQ is staffed by a significant proportion of civil servants who must work alongside uniformed staff within a secure site and in a secure office environment, due to the nature of material handled by them," he said.

"The block is technically deficient, and continued occupancy is no longer tenable.

"To maintain the commitment of the army in Scotland, there is an urgent need to replace this building with an office of modern and appropriate standard."

The Army has had a continuous presence at Craigiehall since requisitioning the site in 1939. After the war it was to be returned to its official owners who planned to turn Craigiehall House into a hotel.

The MoD had other plans for the site, however, and in 1948 completed the official purchase of the house and the lands. The office block was built on a walled garden, which will be fully restored into a recreation space under the plans.

Army spokeswoman Martine McNee said: "We are delighted that Edinburgh City Council has approved our plans for a new building for the Army's Headquarters 2nd Division at Craigiehall. The current building has given us decades of venerable service but is now well past its best.

"The new building will meet all government sustainability targets and will allow the Army to meet its duty of care, to provide a safe, modern working environment for the 216 employees who will be accommodated in it.

"It will also be more environmentally friendly and more economical to run than the current building."

Work on the new building should be completed by 2009.

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