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Kneller Hall sale on cards since 2012, claims petition founder

The Ministry of Defence denied having any plans in January 2015 to sell the the Royal Military School of Music's home in Whitton

Kneller Hall, in Whitton (By Jonathan Cardy, via Wikimedia Commons)(Image: Jonathan Cardy)

A leading campaigner claims the sale of Kneller Hall has been on the cards since 2012, despite the Ministry of Defence (MoD) denying it had any such plans only last year.

The MoD was quick to quash rumours highlighted in January 2015 by then Twickenham MP Vince Cable about the possible disposal of the military quarters in Kneller Road, Whitton.

But almost exactly 12 months later, in January this year, it revealed the home of the Royal Military School of Music was one of 12 MoD estates being put up for sale.

Nikki Bradshaw, whose petition to prevent the listed building's sale has nearly 5,000 signatures, believes its disposal was on the cards as long ago as 2012 as part of a "Project CLEF".

'They've got this far without telling the public anything'

"My feeling is that it's been very much swept under the carpet. They've got this far without telling the public anything," she said.

"There's a comment on the petition by an ex-major called John about Project CLEF, which suggests the Army was already three years into the plan in 2015."

Members of the Royal Military School of Music perform during an open day at West Middlesex Hospital in 2014

The comment she refers to was by John Carter, of France, who wrote on Thursday (February 18): "Vince Cable's proposed meeting with the commandant of Kneller Hall a year ago was cancelled by orders of Army HQ because its Project CLEF was already three years into detailed planning, with the commandant of Kneller Hall, and possibly controversial as it involves civilian job losses."

The MoD declined to comment on when the sale of Kneller Hall was first proposed and when a decision was taken.

New home for Royal Military School of Music

An MoD spokeswoman said: "As part of an ongoing review, we are aiming to create a smaller and better Defence estate that effectively supports our Armed Forces.

Military School of Music to another military establishment we will maintain our level of musical training and release funds to help keep Britain safe."

She added that the facilities at Kneller Hall were ageing and would require significant investment to get them up to the required standard.

She said relocating the school within an existing military training establishment would allow it to sell Kneller Hall, where around 60 permanent MoD staff are based, and reduce its operating costs.

The entrance to Kneller Hall in Whitton

As for the future location of the music school, she said "a number of sites are being assessed".

The future of Kneller Hall is due to be discussed in Parliament on Wednesday, February 24, after Twickenham MP Tania Mathias secured a debate on the proposed sale.

'Overwhelmed by petition response'

Ms Bradshaw has lived in Whitton all her life and said she has attended many concerts there.

She was given free use of the venue for a fundraising gala she organised about five years ago, at which the Band of the Grenadier Guards played, in aid of the military charity Help for Heroes.

She said the event had a special significance for her as one of her three children was serving in Afghanistan at the time with the Coldstream Guards.

"I've been overwhelmed by the response to the petition. I set it up mostly because I was so cross there has been no public consultation," she said.

"This is a part of our community's identity and it turns out the best musicians in the world, which were very proud of."

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