AN £800m project to revolutionise military facilities in Corsham has taken a major step forward.

Government Defence Minister Derek Twigg announced today that Inteq is the successful bidder for the project, which will be carried out over the next 25 years.

Work is expected to start at the Ministry of Defence's Basil Hill communications centre by the end of next year, with all major building work to be completed within the first three years, Cutting-edge operational and technical support facilities will be built at the base, along with office accommodation for 2,000 staff and 180 single en-suite rooms for service personnel.

Used by the Defence Communication Services Agency (DCSA), the facility as a whole acts as the eyes and ears of the Armed Forces, providing communication for operations worldwide.

A statement released by the Government said the 25-year Private Finance Initiative project would "deliver state-of-the-art communication facilities at Corsham" to support peacekeeping missions, sea-lane protection and intelligence gathering as well as anti-drugs and humanitarian aid operations.

A total of 82 MoD posts will transfer to the Inteq consortium and 108 civilian staff from organisations that provide support to the Corsham estate will also transfer to Inteq.

News of the contract has been welcomed in Corsham, with town council chairman Allan Bosley saying it was "extremely good news" for the town.

Defence minister Mr Twigg also vowed to preserve the network of disused tunnels under Corsham, to ensure the country's Cold War heritage is not lost.

English Heritage and Inteq will be involved in any preservation project.