An historic York Army barracks that was to be sold off by the MoD has been saved.

Defence procurement minister James Cartlidge has confirmed in a letter to York Outer MP Julian Sturdy that the Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Strensall will no longer be sold off.

Instead, the barracks - and nearby Towthorpe Lines – are to be retained by the MoD as the base for the Army’s 2 Med Group.

The future of the barracks has been under threat for eight years.

It was back in 2016 that the MoD first announced that the barracks - home to 2 Medical Brigade and 34 Field Hospital - were due to shut by 2021.

At one point, there were plans to build 500 homes on the site once it was sold off.

York Press: The Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Strensall, which will NOT now be sold by the MoDThe Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Strensall, which will NOT now be sold by the MoD (Image: Newsquest)

But the closure was later put back to 2024 – and now the MoD has decided to hold onto the barracks after all.

In his letter to Mr Sturdy dated February 29 - a letter which has only just been made public -  defence procurement minister Mr Cartlidge says: “I have today approved an update to the Defence Disposal Database that will confirm the military retention of Queen Elizabeth Barracks and Towthorpe Lines.”

Mr Cartlidge said that proposals for the barracks to be sold and 2 Med Group to be moved to Catterick had been under review since 2021, when closure of the barracks was pushed back.

His letter to Mr Sturdy adds: “You may therefore not be surprised that the sites will no longer be sold, but I wanted to confirm that all options have now been assessed and Strensall continues to be the preferred option for the army.

“The decision to remain at Strensall will naturally bring requirements to further invest in the sites.”

The news has been welcomed across the political divide in York.

Conservative MP Mr Sturdy said: "It is absolutely incredible news that Queen Elizabeth Barracks will not only be retained but will receive additional investment as the home of 2 Med Group.

"It has been difficult sitting on this news since I first heard last month but it fantastic to see how well it has already been received by the local community. 

"York has a long history with military and this news means Strensall can build upon its 150 year association with the army.

"This announcement also ends any uncertainty about the Barracks site, as its post-military future was uncertain after an initial planning application for housing was rejected due to its proximity to a site of special scientific interest.

"I have a meeting with the Minister for Defence Procurement next month so will raise any questions constituents have and provide a more comprehensive update regarding what the future holds for Queen Elizabeth Barracks."

Cllr Claire Douglas, the Labour leader of City of York Council and York’s Armed Forces Champion, also welcomed the news – but pointed out that, while Strensall Barracks may have been saved, Imphal was still scheduled for closure.

She said: “We welcome the announcement of a long term commitment to retaining and developing Strensall Barracks as a centre for 2 Med Group.

“York has a proud military history and it is pleasing to know this link will now continue beyond the MOD’s planned closure of Imphal Barracks in the next decade.”

Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, added: “I welcome York remaining a garrison city, it is an important decision.

“Strensall and Towthorpe provide world-leading training and services through the 2 Med Group, enabling our Armed Forces to provide medical support to those on the frontline as well as treat those with disease, such as Ebola.”

But Ms Maskell, like Cllr Douglas, raised questions about the future of Imphal – and hinted that a Labour defence review if the party won power at the next general election could yet see York's city centre barracks,  home to the Army's First Division, also saved.

She said: “Labour will review the whole defence estate when elected, and I very much hope that the importance of Imphal Barracks will be recognised, and enable the Army to remain at the centre of our city.

“The HQ of First Division leads on a crucial strategic role demanding operational excellence that our service personnel deploy; all driven by the ethos created at Imphal. It has always been part of our city, and I will continue to make the case that it remains.”

An MOD spokesperson said: “We can confirm the retention of Queen Elizabeth Barracks and Towthorpe Lines for military purposes.

“As previously announced, Defence remains committed to the disposal of Imphal Barracks, which is scheduled to take place not before 2030. We continue to work with the local authority to release the site for meaningful future use.”


A brief history of Strensall Barracks

Strensall Barracks - initially known as Strensall Camp - was established on land at Strensall Common  bought by the war department in 1872. Permanent buildings were put up in 1880.

The camp was an important mustering point for troops ahead of mobilisation for the First World War.

During the second World War, it was also the training ground for the local Haxby and Wigginton Home Guard.[

The barracks were renamed Queen Elizabeth Barracks in the 1950s, and went on to become the regional centre for infantry training as the Yorkshire Brigade Depot in 1960.

The barracks then became the depot of the King's Division in 1968, following the unification of the Yorkshire Brigade with the Lancastrian and North Irish Brigades.

On June 11, 1974, the Provisional Irish Republican Army planted and exploded bombs at the camp, though there was no loss of life.

More recently, the barracks have been home to 2 Medical Brigade and 34 Field Hospital.