RAF Stafford has been given a major survival boost with news that the Army is likely to take over the facility.

The 375-acre Beaconside base was opened in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, but last year the Ministry of Defence decided it was surplus to requirements.

Now, after a delegation led by the town's Labour MP David Kidney and Coun Judith Dalgarno, leader of the Conservative-controlled Stafford Borough Council, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram confirmed that the Army was likely to take over when the RAF moves out next year.

The decision is a major boost to the town's economy which stood to lose at least #16 million-a-year.

New units that would take over include the Defence Medical Training Agency, the Royal Corps of Signals along with the Gurkha Regiment.

There were suggestions that at least 1,700 Army personnel might move in but Coun Dalgarno said: "I cannot tell you how many people are coming because we don't know yet.

"However, I feel more happy and confident now than I did some time ago when the closure of the base was announced.

"The Minister was very frank with us but said he was not yet ready to fully announce the changes. He was very confident about it but won't make a formal announcement yet although he said his department was working on it.

"It is very important the site is used and maintained and we look forward to welcoming the army to the town."

When the base was fully operational, there were 1,000 RAF personnel and 1,000 civilians. About 300 civilian jobs were cut recently.

Mr Kidney said the Medical Training Agency and the Signals would be "exciting additions" to the local economy with high skill levels and technology.

He said: "New military uses for the camp are welcome but will not provide a high level of civilian jobs," said Mr Kidney.

"So we must still focus on two immediate priorities. First we want the best possible help for those at risk of losing their jobs and second we have to build up our local economy to provide alternative work."

As the RAF presence was being wound down during the past few weeks, massive warehouse facilities were being offered for lease.