August 24th 2023

REOP: Creating modern, fit-for-purpose Cadet centres for generations to come

Boston Joint Cadet Centre

With extensive training grounds and residential properties across the country, the Ministry of Defence is one of the UK’s biggest landowners.

However, this ageing portfolio with its historic footprint has not evolved as demands have changed. To rectify this, a national transformation strategy has been introduced. For their part, the country’s 13 RFCAs have been tasked with delivering a special programme for Reserves and Cadets facilities.

The Reserves Estate Optimisation Programme (REOP) will ensure our people have modern, fit-for-purpose environments for today and tomorrow.

Phase 1 focuses on Cadet centres. Tranche 1 of this phase is underway with 21 Cadet centres moving into 10 newly refurbished and in many cases, enlarged, centres in the East Midlands. All projects are due to be completed by April 2024.


As separate organisations, the Army and Air Cadets have traditionally occupied separate buildings with their facilities only being used a few nights a week. Where deemed appropriate following a detailed analysis of factors such as travel distance, public transport infrastructure, and the sustainability of sites, REOP is bringing these units together at what will be called Joint Cadet Centres (JCC). Crucially, no Cadet units will close as a result of REOP.

Savings are being channelled into funding refurbishment and development work at the JCCs, ensuring that appropriate office and storage space is available and that the buildings are attractive training spaces.

Working in conjunction with partners, decisions were made by the Ministry of Defence, with East Midlands RFCA acting as a REOP delivery agent.

In Derbyshire, the Heanor and Codnor Park Army Cadet Detachments are re-locating to Ripley Academy, home of Ripley Army Cadet Detachment. Heanor will be moving out of an outdated hut erected in the 1960s, while Codnor Park will no longer need to hire space at the Jacksdale Social Club.

A dedicated Cadet facility already exists on the school site in Ripley which provides mutual benefit to teachers and schoolchildren who are able to make use of the space in the day. The centre will be extended to accommodate more office and storage space for the incoming Detachments.

Over in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, 1084 Squadron Air Cadets will welcome their Army Cadet counterparts into what will become a JCC. The area is bustling with the town’s football and rugby clubs and Scouts also based on the edge of an expansive green space. Market Harborough Detachment leave behind what was previously an Army Reserve base which had tricky access off a busy road.

The Air Cadet building will be reconfigured to create more office and storage. This will be made possible by remodelling what is currently an unused garage space.

Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, 141 (Boston) Squadron Air Cadets is moving into an existing JCC (pictured above) with the town’s Sea Cadet and ACF unit. Another former Army Reserve Centre, this site has plenty of room and will undergo an internal and external refurbishment ahead of the move. A garage and an abandoned bar will be demolished to create more space and a new classroom.

Planners are currently assessing an ambitious plan to transport 141 Squadron’s former home, a modular building which is in great condition, to replace Bourne ACF’s outdated building. This work falls outside of scope for REOP and will be funded by East Midlands RFCA if it goes ahead.

Other planned REOP projects include the re-location of 2000 (Eckington) Squadron Air Cadets to Eckington Army Cadet’s centre; Market Rasen Army Cadets joining 2291 (Market Rasen) Squadron’s soon-to-be extended Air Cadets centre; and 2070 (Glenfield) Squadron’s facilities are being reconfigured at their underutilised site ready to welcome Braunstone Army Cadets, who currently hire space at a church hall.

There are also ongoing conversations with stakeholders regarding other potential re-locations.

Staveley Army Cadets’ short move from an ageing building on an industrial estate to an existing Air Cadet Centre on a residential estate in 2022 was the first REOP project to be completed in the East Midlands.

The next phase

Project Officer Adam Hammett joined East Midlands RFCA in late 2022 to oversee REOP having completed a similar optimisation programme for the Royal Air Forces Association.

He said: “I’m very proud to work on REOP. Improving environments for our people, especially volunteers who give up their time for other people’s children, is a very worthwhile project.

“It’s so satisfying to work on something which will make their lives better and inspire more generations of Cadets with modern and more inviting environments.”

As tranche 1 of the initial phase wraps up in spring 2024, tranche 2 is set to begin. This second stage will see the creation of new Joint Cadet Centres for Air and Army Cadet units in Stamford and Skegness.

Once that project comes to a close, REOP will turn to phase 2 and the Reserves estate.