Corsham project will make Defence connections more efficient

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A major construction project to provide new facilities for the team that keep people across Defence connected is nearing completion.

From satellite-phones used in Afghanistan, to telephones on desks in MOD Main Building, Defence Equipment and Support’s Information Systems and Services (DE&S ISS) staff deliver communications systems right across Defence.

Currently spread across a number of sites, the £690 million Corsham New Environment Programme will unite the team in one location at Basil Hill in Corsham, Witshire. It is being delivered through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) construction project managed by Defence Estates (DE).

With many DE&S ISS staff currently housed in a HQ built during the Second World War at Basil Hill, a huge modern office complex - which will provide 1874 workspaces - will give them a purpose-built, contemporary environment to work in.

Alongside the new offices, the programme will build new living accommodation at the site to house 180 Service personnel, including those working for DE&S. A sports hall with improved facilities is also under construction.

Haydn Fowler, Deputy Head of the CNE Transition for DE&S and DE’s customer for the programme, points to its benefits - for both the MOD and the taxpayer.

By moving on to one site, we gain financial efficiencies and we can release some properties into the market place that the MOD no longer needs. We also become more efficient and effective, reducing duplication of roles and improving communication between teams.

The co-location of living accommodation and technical facilities at Basil Hill reflects the operational nature of the site. The Global Operations Security Control Centre (GOSCC) manages all Defence communication channels 24-hours-a-day,365 days a year, including those which support operational theatres and keep them connected to the UK.

In operational terms, ISS are responsible for delivering the kit that our Armed Forces need, including all the latest communications systems required for hostile environments such as Afghanistan,” says Haydn.

The site’s critical operational role, and the implication of any breaks in communications in theatre, has presented some challenges for the redevelopment project.

During construction, we must ensure that nothing goes down in the event of a power cut. So we’re quite worried about the diggers going into certain areas, because of the cables they might cut. We work very closely with the DE team on this, to make sure it can’t happen.

We’re at the stage where the roofs and the floors are done now, so it’s down to details. That means the smaller parts of the programme must all be wired up in time with the construction – and that includes lots of things that could potentially trip us up, such as telephones and computers.

Haydn is confident that the results will repay the huge amount of effort which has gone into the project.

The redevelopment, particularly the office complex, will be a catalyst for ongoing change. It’s something I think we’re going to be very proud of when it’s done.