§ 29. Sir P. HURD
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office what is the character of the objections received by his Department to the absorption of seven miles of the Wiltshire Downs in the neighbourhood of the White Horse; how many public roads and rights of way will be affected by die establishment of the machine-gun range on the dawns; and what steps will be taken to safeguard the interests of the local community?
§ 30. Mr. GRIMSTON
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if he is aware that much resentment is being caused locally by the War Office proposal to close a large area of the downs in the vicinity of Warminster, Westbury and Heytesbury for machine-gun practice between 19th April and 29th July; and will he consider if it is possible to find space for ranges on War Office property in the district further away from this residential area and where less interference and loss of amenities will be caused to the public?
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Duff Cooper)
Misunderstandings regarding alleged interference with access to the Westbury White Horse were communicated to the War Office, and these and other points were discussed at a meeting held last month at Trowbridge between representatives of the War Department, the Wilts County Council and other local councils, when a settlement was reached which it was understood would be satisfactory to all concerned. The present arrangements are that the area will be closed only from 19th April to 21st June and from 10th July to 21st July. I am unable to state the number of rights of way existing in the area which it is proposed to use temporarily as a machine-gun range, but the local highway authority has agreed to their being closed. Draft by-laws, which are at present being advertised locally, make all the necessary provision for the safety of the public while firing is in progress. I can assure my hon. Friends that it was decided to use this area of War Department land for certain special machine-gun training only because no other area suitable for the purpose is available elsewhere on War Department property.
§ Sir P. HURD
Will my hon. Friend give facilities to the Wiltshire Members to discuss this matter with the Department, in order to see whether public rights are being safeguarded as far as possible?
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
Will the limitations which my hon. Friend has read out be applicable every year hereafter, or only in this particular year?