A councillor urging the Government to consult over the possible closure of the UK’s leading rehabilitation centre for injured servicemen is perplexed at the lack of support for the issue from Mole Valley’s MP.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans to create a new £300m Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) in the Midlands, to replace Headley Court, near Epsom - an institution that has had very strong local support, boasts state-of-the-art facilities and a world-class team of 400 staff who have helped to rebuild the lives of so many injured servicemen and women.
Lib Dem Councillor David Preedy, who represents Headley on Mole Valley Council, successfully tabled a motion at a meeting earlier this month saying that Government ministers must engage with the area’s community to ensure all possible uses for Headley Court are investigated before its future role is decided. He also called on local MPs to lobby ministers over the issue.
Headley Court has seen huge amounts of investment in recent years
But reacting to Coun Preedy’s call to arms - which is based on his belief that an outright closure of Headley Court as a military facility is now under serious consideration by the MoD - Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, said the move was "jumping the gun".
He said: "Don’t let’s open the door on this until we have some ideas of where we are going with it.
"Let's wait and see. Mr Preedy is shooting his shots too early."
Coun Preedy said he disagrees with Sir Paul's approach.
He said: "No, I do not think it is jumping the gun.
"The MoD said in 2011 that the decision was likely at the end of 2013 so it is overdue and I have been given information to suggest that it is due in the next two to three weeks.
"The whole point of the motion was to get the council, the local planning authority, involved before the decision was made. Sitting and waiting for a decision does not cut the mustard.
"The future of Headley Court should be discussed not just by the MoD and the Headley Court trustees but by the council as well.
"I am genuinely confused as to why Sir Paul reacted so strongly against it."
Coun Preedy said that Sir Paul’s reference to restrictive planning conditions on Headley Court’s buildings are "all the more reason" that the council, as the local planning authority, should be involved at an early stage.
He said: "I don’t see why he is adamant in waiting. It seems, for some reason, that he feels that the local council should not be involved in this.
"The local council is the planning authority. If we are in a position where we need to think creatively to find a way to keep the facilities in productive use, the council has to be involved in the process.
"I was the conduit through which people realised there was an urgency about this issue, but I was pushing at open doors."
The MoD plans to build a new £300m complex, to replace Headley Court, in the Midlands
When asked what the next steps are in implementing the motion he tabled, Coun Preedy said: "One of the avenues was to talk to our local MPs and that has drawn a blank so I will propose to go straight to the MoD and Headley Court trustees.
"All three parties in the council need to get together."
Huge amounts of investment have been injected into Headley Court in recent years, including a cutting-edge Medicinema, launched with funds raised by the Royal British Legion, which opened there last October, and a £8.5m Help for Heroes Rehabilitation Centre which opened in 2010.
What do you think should happen to Headley Court? Contact Hardeep Matharu on the newsdesk on 020 8722 6346 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.