Is the country's leading military rehabilitation centre, Headley Court in Epsom, to close?

An outline planning application has been submitted for a new leading military rehabilitation centre in the Midlands which would replace Headley Court in Epsom

An outline planning application has been submitted for a new leading military rehabilitation centre in the Midlands which would replace Headley Court in Epsom

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Plans to replace the country’s leading rehabilitation centre for injured servicemen with a new £300million complex in the Midlands have been met with shock and surprise.

An outline planning application has been submitted to Rushcliffe Council to turn Stanford Hall, an 18th Century estate near Loughborough, into a bigger, more accessible replacement for Headley Court in Epsom.

If plans for the "state-of-the-art centre for military personnel suffering from physical and psychological trauma" are approved in the coming months, Headley Court will become surplus to requirements after 2017.

This is despite all the money which has been ploughed into creating state-of-the art facilities there and a world-class team of 400 staff who have helped rebuild the lives of so many seriously injured men and women.

Just last September a new £17m, MoD-funded treatment and accommodation centre was opened, followed by a £410,000 Medicinema launched in October thanks to funds raised by The Royal British Legion.

Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes both declined to make any comment when contacted by the Epsom Guardian and the MoD insisted no final decision had been taken.

The news will come as a big shock to many residents who have no idea about the threat to Headley Court, an institution that has had very strong local support.

Epsom Councillor Dan Stevens, whose brother was in the army, said he was "completely stumped" by the proposals.

He said: "I would be surprised if Headley Court was replaced completely as it has had lots of investment from organisations like Help for Heroes."

Epsom resident Tony Goatham, whose son is due to return to Afghanistan next year, said he had not heard of the plans and would be very upset if Headley Court was shut down.

He said: "I would be very, very surprised and shocked if it was shut down because of the amount Help for Heroes has put into it.

"My son Ashley climbed Britain and Ireland’s five great peaks last summer to raise money and all my Christmas presents were from Help for Heroes."

It is believed that staff members at Headley Court are not yet widely aware of the plans and their implications.

Stanford Hall is a grade 2 listed building, set in 3,600-acre grounds, which was bought in 2011 by the Duke of Westminster. He has offered the Ministry of Defence (MoD) use of the site to develop a Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) - a new military rehabilitation centre.

According to the DNRC project’s website, Headley Court is a small site and, despite continuing investment, its ability to develop will soon be limited.

It said the new centre would be easier to reach for service personnel and their families than Epsom and the Midlands has become the main focus for defence medicine.

It also plans to share its facilities and expertise in trauma rehabilitation with injured civilians.

Headley Court, which opened in 1950, is set on an 85-acre site, owned by the Headley Court Trust, and funded by the MoD.

It was originally used by the RAF as a rehabilitation and convalescent home for injured personnel.

It currently has space for 200 inpatients and has 20,000 out patient visits a year.

An MoD spokeswoman said: No final decisions on the future of Headley Court or Stanford Hall have been made.

"We expect to be in a position to announce progress on the next steps of the DNRC project towards the end of 2013.

"However we can be clear, our wounded and injured service personnel will continue to receive world-class care and rehabilitation."

Mr Goatham said: "I guess there are so many injuries that Headley Court can’t really cope.

"Having a new centre can’t be a bad thing.

"There are a lot more injuries than are talked about - I was shocked to see how many guys were injured from one company at Alwyn’s medal ceremony.

"You just have to look at Mali now - it seems they will get themselves involved in other wars. They’re planning for the future."

The number of seriously injured, or very seriously injured, combat casualties declined sharply to 54 last year, according to the UK Defence Statistics 2012, following the withdrawal from Iraq and the ongoing reduction of service personnel from Afghanistan.

Public consultation on the planning application ended on January 16 and a decision is expected by Rushcliffe Council in the first half of 2013.

If approved, the DNRC is scheduled for completed by 2017.

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