Up to the Challenge: DIO invests in new urban tactics facility

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) plays a vital role in supporting the UK’s Armed Forces by building, maintaining and servicing what the men and women who serve our country need to live, work, train and deploy on operations. 

One of DIO’s recent projects has seen the organisation invest more than £1.2 million in a new urban tactics facility at Catterick training area that recreates the cluttered and congested environment encountered during modern urban operations. 

Catterick training area is located on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, south of the market town of Richmond. The area’s military history dates from as far back as 1798. Later, General Lord Baden-Powell, based in Richmond from 1908 to 1910, was tasked by the War Office to establish a military training area in the north of England and he chose Catterick. Its status as a permanent training centre was secured in 1921 and a period of intensive building followed. The land comprising the current training area was acquired between 1921 and 1985. 

In conjunction with military training, Catterick training area is predominantly used for extensive livestock grazing, while the better in-bye land is farmed more intensively for hay, silage and arable crops. The ranges also have numerous archaeological remains, including 36 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. 

The investment into Whinny Hill, Catterick training area’s urban operations training facility, has created a more challenging training environment for the Armed Forces and emergency services personnel who use it.  

Lt Col Mark Holden, Commander Defence Training Estate for the North Region, explains: “The enhancements made at Whinny Hill will enable the Armed Forces to prepare for war-fighting in a complex urban environment, ensuring we meet the current and future needs of military personnel. 

“We have worked closely with experts and our partners to ensure that we deliver exactly what the military needs to provide enhanced training for their sailors, soldiers and airmen. 

“The new urban complex has been designed to meet the needs of military personnel now, and in the future, and we’re pleased that it’s now ready for use.” 

The new facility consists of 13 buildings constructed from purposebuilt reconfigurable containers. The single and two-storey buildings have a variety of access points and forced entry points, while a further multi-storey building provides helicopter and rope access training.  

Working with BeaverFit Ltd and industry partner Landmarc Support Services, DIO delivered the project in two phases; the first finished in October 2018 and the second completed recently. The facility remained in operation throughout the construction period in order to minimise the impact on vital military training.  

Claire Travis, Project Manager from Landmarc, commented: “The buildings have been designed with facades to add realism and internal room layouts that are reconfigurable to enable different challenges for defenders and attackers. 

“One of the key challenges was to ensure that the existing urban training facility remained operational whilst the project was delivered. This required close collaboration with DIO and our contractors to de-conflict the training areas during vehicle movements and the final delivery of the containers, which were manufactured off-site to provide a more flexible and cost-effective solution.” 

DIO has worked in partnership with Landmarc Support Services for over 15 years, and as part of the Next Generation Estate Contracts (NGEC) programme of works since 2014. 

For DIO and Landmarc, working together is important for providing services successfully. Both are accredited to the new ISO 44001 standard, which provides a framework for improved communications between client and supplier. The partnership is also based on a Partnering Charter and a plan that reinforces the importance of a successful joint management system between the two organisations. 

Col Phil Cook, Deputy Head of the UK Defence Training Estate, explained: “DIO and Landmarc staff have a ‘one team’ approach which enables us to provide a more efficient, better quality estate for defence people to live, work, train and deploy on operations.  

“The contract and individual projects are kept on track through regular meetings, joint workshops and working groups which go well beyond the required monthly meetings. We overcome challenges through a strong partnering ethos which means that barriers are broken down so that we can pull together as one team to carry out the programme and resolve any issues.” 

The work at Catterick is testament to this methodology and has impressed Major General Tim Hyams, Director Land Warfare, with the results.  

He said: “This state-of-the-art facility will enable the delivery of realistic and challenging training to our soldiers. 

“Whinny Hill is the principal sub-unit urban training facility in the north of the UK and the enhancements made here will develop further our ability to prepare for operations in complex urban terrain.” 

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