MoD reviews plans to merge defence staff training

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Controversial plans to sell the Royal Naval College at Greenwich in south-east London - one of Britain's great architectural treasures - have hit a major obstacle, it was disclosed yesterday.

Defence chiefs have been forced to review plans to form a single tri- service staff college at Camberley, Surrey, bringing the Army, Royal Navy and RAF together under one roof because of huge costs.

Detailed studies into the cost of refurbishing the existing Army Staff College have disclosed that "tens of millions of pounds" will be needed to carry out the work.

The cost is substantially more than predicted in initial studies, raising fears that savings might not be seen until well into the next century.

"There is a lot of teeth-sucking going on about the scale of the costs involved in the refurbishment of Camberley," said a senior defence source.

Alternative sites to Camberley are now under consideration to see whether greater savings can be made. And there are grave doubts whether the 1997 deadline for forming the tri-service college can now be met.

"Everything is being considered - from constructing a new building from scratch to using another existing building," said another official.

"There is a body of opinion which argues that refurbishing Camberley is simply not cost-effective."

However, the Ministry of Defence is still determined to try and put all three staff colleges together.

"The problem is you have to spend to save and at the moment the MoD is faced with costs they don't want to face," said the official.