British Defense Minister Michael Fallon says that government is auctioning off 56 of its military sites to reduce running costs and release more land for housing purposes.
Speaking at the UK Parliament’s House of Commons on Tuesday, Fallon said that the sale of the sites was part of an estate review program which would improve cost management at his department.
“By putting money where it is needed, we will provide better facilities to train our armed forces and deliver more stability for military families,” he said.
The government had previously put on sale 35 other military sites. The new plan is estimated to save about £140 million in maintenance costs and free 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) of land, enough to build 55,000 homes over the next 10 years, according to Fallon.
The closures would include eight sites in Scotland and three apiece in Wales and Northern Ireland. The rest of the sites are located in England.
Ten surplus airfields and five golf courses are among the military real estate to be sold.
According to last year’s Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR), the UK government aims to reduce the size of its military estate by 30 percent before 2040.
Fallon told lawmakers that the move was part of more than £4 billion in military investment.
The UK government has been grappling with increasing rents and a shortage of affordable homes over the past several years.
The announcement by Fallon angered various unions across the UK, who argued that the cuts would adversely affect the support for armed forces and damage morale.
“We are opposed to these closure plans that throw the future into doubt for thousands of staff,” said Mark Serwotka, general secretary for the Public and Commercial Services union, BBC reported.
He slammed the defense ministry’s “poor track record” in selling land and said the new plan “exposes how the Tories are simply paying lip service to the urgent need to address the housing crisis.”
Unite, the UK’s largest trade union, also protested the move, calling the closures “brutal.”
“In many instances the bases earmarked for closure are at the heart of their local communities providing a source of decent and secure employment,” said Mike McCartney, national officer for Unite.