Express & Star

Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets unveil £3m plan to put town in national spotlight

Ambitious plans have been revealed to create a new £3m land-based ‘Navy ship’ facility which will help to put Sutton Coldfield on the national map.

The designs from Fleming James Architects

Fleming James Architects were commissioned to design the proposed facility, in the shape of a ship, by the Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets.

If the plans get funding and planning permission, the base will be a unique facility – and has the potential to be a huge focal point in Sutton Coldfield, celebrating the town's history.

As well as serving the Sea Cadets and Royal Marine Cadets, the building will have a strong community focus, with a chance for group meetings, youth education, ward meetings, police surgeries and even potential as a wedding venue.

Funding efforts are now under way with the proposals having the backing of MP Andrew Mitchell and a number of local councillors.

How the project could look

“If we get this done, we will have a hell of a building for the future of the town and for the success of our own unit,” said Nigel Smith, chairman of the Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets.

“This would be a very special build. It would look spectacular. We would have something which belongs to this town, to the greater good of the community that we serve.

"It’s a special project and if we are able to be successful and raise the funds required, this town will have a first-class, modern architectural building. You will think you have a ship in the town.”

The existing ship base, off Stonehouse Road, by Sutton Park, was built in 1952 and modelled on ‘HMS Sutton’, a First World War Hunt-class minesweeper.

The cadets and staff built the current base but after many years of service it is now due to be replaced and needs to be brought back to life.

The new building would be modelled on the Type 26 frigate (Global Combat Ship) eight of which are being constructed for the Royal Navy at BAE Systems’ Govan and Scotstoun yards on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

One will be named ‘HMS Birmingham’, which the new cadets facility will mirror as a land-based version.

This will provide a new unit base and include the re-design of the external site areas with a parade space, dinghy storage, and external classroom facilities, all based around the existing boat storage buildings that are to remain.

The base as it is now

Sub-lieutenant Joshua Walsh, the Cadets commanding officer, said: “The current building was made by materials used during the war and it’s very old.

"The cost of maintenance is huge so it became a decision that we needed to knock the building down and rebuild.

“It was sad because we didn’t want to lose the ship but we went into consultation with the volunteers and members of the organisation.

"They decided they wanted another ship so we said ‘that’s what we will do’. We did some drawings and then approached Andrew Fleming and Ian James and told them what we wanted to do.”

The ambitious project is being supported by Mr Mitchell while the Cadets have spoken with councillors including David Pears, Alison Jolley, Rob Pocock and Kath Scott.

Mr Walsh added: “Everyone we have been to has been massively positive and so, so supportive about the project.”

“We have designed a site that can be self-sufficient in terms of funding. So it could be rented to different groups in terms of other users, a training base or conference facility.

“This space, although it would look like a ship, which we decided on to retain its history, will be a major community project. It’s not just for a one-off youth organisation’s single use. We want to use it for all of Sutton Coldfield.

“There’s massive history around the town, we want to highlight that. We want it to be a massive local project. I think it’s going to be a buzz spot for the park.”

"We want to use local people to help, that is essential to us. It’s really about the community and making sure everyone can benefit."

A further design

The ambitious plans have received praise from the Royal Town's MP.

Mr Mitchell is president of the unit and believes the £3m proposal for a new base will have huge benefits to the town.

“These exciting and important plans for the Royal Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets will be a major boost for the local community," Mr Mitchell said.

"Not only are the Royal Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets one of the most popular and numerous youth organisations operating across the Town but they are also one of the most successful units in the United Kingdom.

"As well as being their Member of Parliament, I have the pleasure of being their President and strongly support these exciting new plans which will renew their Ship which was modelled on the basis of a World War I naval vessel and not only bring the structure completely up to date, mirroring a modern warship but also provide conference and other facilities of the most modern type for use by the sea cadets but also for use by the wider community locally.

"I wish the current management of the Royal Sutton Coldfield Sea Cadets which are doing such an outstanding job every success with these new plans”

Ian James, from Fleming James Architects, said: "Designing a building to replicate a ship is challenging and the feasibility stage design work explored how this could be realised.

"There is the obvious need for buildings appearance to reflect that of the real frigate, as much as feasible, but also how to satisfy the client’s spatial and use requirements.

"To meet this the design needs to allow a range of activities for the cadet unit, future proof the long term goals of the facility, plus accommodate the wider community use as project intends to serve as an assist to the local area."

The plans for the ship and surrounding area

The aim is for the project to be completed in advance of the 2022 Commonwealth Games where the new cadets building will support the Sutton Park venue being used for the games.

The ​Sea Cadets are a self-funded charity based on naval values, providing both ashore and afloat activities and adventure and qualifications and aim to guide children in to young adulthood.

Anyone who can support fundraising efforts for the new facility or would like to join the cadets should email or visit