I’m David Batchelor, DIO’s Drawdown Programme Manager, based in Germany. As you probably know, British forces have been based in Germany since the end of World War II. Until last year, there were about 20,000 troops stationed in the country, but as part of the 'Army 2020' plan, they are returning to the UK. Some have already returned, others will move next year and the last personnel will come back to the UK in 2019.
I’m a Chartered Surveyor by trade and I’ve been working in Germany for a while now helping to manage the drawdown. My team and I are very busy returning surplus property to the German authorities and negotiating about final settlement sums. These can be paid from the UK to the Federal Republic of Germany or the other way around. For example, the Germans will be compensating us for any buildings which were originally funded by the Ministry of Defence.
As you can probably guess from all that, organising such a large-scale movement of people is a sizeable challenge under any circumstances, but we also need to return four garrisons, 26 barracks, and 17,500 hectares of training estate to the German authorities before 2020. The Germans are obviously keen to find suitable uses for the land and buildings once we’ve left. It’s not easy, because as in the UK, planning permission is required for changes from military to civilian use.
Decisions on what type of civilian use and timing is determined by Local Government through a process known in German as 'Konversion'. While we’re not directly involved in the Konversion process, the DIO Overseas team and other partners in British Forces Germany have been assisting with it. This involves working closely with the Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben (BImA), the German organisation responsible for the military estate in Germany.
One way we’re working with the Germans is by attending workshops. I went to one at the end of March at the BImA offices in Bielefeld. There were over 20 representatives and subject matter experts from BImA, DIO and British Forces Germany HQ. The purpose of the event was to explore how the Konversion process can assist negotiations and develop ideas as to how future use of barracks can be agreed prior to sale. It was the first of regular workshops designed to develop an innovative, consensual and collaborative approach between BImA and DIO for assessing and agreeing residual values on the estate. Discussions were constructive so I’m sure that progress will continue!
It’s a long and complicated process with plenty more work to be done, but a good start has been made. I’m looking forward to continuing to work closely with the German authorities as well as my British colleagues.