The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has raised nearly £700m in sale proceeds from defence estate disposals since Q4 2016, as the department seeks to rationalise land holdings across England, Wales, and Scotland.

The maintenance and upkeep of the MoD’s various defence sites is one of the leading costs, which could be reduced through a consolidation of more numerous bases into larger sites. In turn, this could also raise significant revenues for defence at a time when budgets are stretched.  

In a written parliamentary response in March this year, it was revealed that the sum raised from defence estate disposal between 7 November 2016 and 1 February 2023 totalled £691m.

The sales effort is being carried by out under the Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) portfolio, formed in November 2016 as part of a 25-year strategy to modernise the defence estate.

The notion of the MoD raising additional funds through the sale of platforms and equipment no longer needed in service is not new, with specific arms within the department, such the Defence Equipment Support Organisation, dedicated selling on old, unwanted, or excess stock.

Disposal plan has British Army focus

According to the UK Government, as part of the optimisation process defence will dispose of sites that are no longer suitable for military requirements, determined to be a “natural by-product of the enhancement of the defence estate as we provide the infrastructure needed by a modern expeditionary force”.

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Disposing of these sites creates opportunities for alternative use, resulting in regeneration, business growth and job creation within the local area. The DEO has disposed of 771 hectares of surplus military land for both commercial and residential development, which has been repurposed into schools, film studios, commercial use building, more than 6,500 homes, and open green space.

Between 2023 and 2035 the DEO is planning to close 47 military sites or buildings, of which 31 are operated by the British Army, seven by the Royal Air Force, six by the UK Defence Infrastructure Organisation, and three by the Royal Navy. Of note, this includes RAF Scampton air base in Lincolnshire (2023), and the Royal Navy’s Royal Citadel in Plymouth (2035).