Military medical staff based at Birmingham's Royal Centre for Defence Medicine are set to move to Staffordshire as part of an £80 million Government project, it was revealed yesterday.
Whittington Barracks, near Lichfield, has been named as the preferred site to bring military training centres at Gosport in Hampshire, Aldershot in Surrey, and Selly Oak in Birmingham, under one roof by 2010.
The move will bring an extra 1,300 military and civilian personnel to the Midlands.
However, much of the RCDM's training will still take place at University Hospital Birmingham, before eventually moving to the city's new "super hospital" in Edgbaston.
Defence Minister Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) said the multi-million pound project would heighten the region's reputation as an international centre of excellence for defence medicine.
He said: "This is likely, on current forecasts, to involve investment of at least £80 million.
"It will bring a further 1,300 military and civilian personnel to the region, bringing with it considerable benefits.
"The Midlands medical accommodation project will provide the Defence Medical Services with a 'Midlands military home' and further strengthen the region's position as an international centre of excellence in the field of defence medicine.
"It will bring together defence medical activities that are currently dispersed across the South-east.
"Lichfield is the historic home of the Staffordshire Regiment and Whittington Barracks offers scope for substantial redevelopment, along with the refurbishment of some fine existing buildings."
The project will unite the headquarters of the Defence Medical Education and Training Agency (DMETA) and 33 Field hospital, which are both based at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport, the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine's headquarters in Selly Oak, and the Defence Medical Services Training Centre, at Keogh Barracks in Aldershot.
Most of the Army's training activity at Whittington will be withdrawn over the next few years and a detailed assessment of the project will be conducted before the level of capital investment is decided.
Redevelopment of the barracks could be completed by 2010.
RAF Stafford was one of several local sites scouted for the new Midlands training hub, but MoD bosses chose Whittington because it was closer to the RCDM's clinical, training and research divisions base in Birmingham, and was the most cost-effective option.
The RCDM, which was opened by the Princess Royal in April 2001, is the focus for DMETA's military medical training and research, works in partnership with the UHB, and enables treatment of armed forces personnel at the trust's hospitals.
Surgeon Rear Admiral Philip Raffaelli, DMETA chief executive, said: "It is excellent news that the assessment phase for this project will now go ahead.
"Lichfield should offer an ideal solution to our requirements."
However, Coun Judith Dalgamo, leader of Stafford Borough Council, expressed her disappointment that Whittington had been favoured over RAF Stafford for the project.
She said: "Stafford had hoped there would be a possibility that the medical establishment would come here.
"Realistically, however, we have always known that there was a clear preference for Whittington.
"Through the task force which I will continue to lead, we will endeavour to look for more opportunities to retain, consolidate and bring military elements to Stafford and to support local economy and provide jobs."