HC Deb 28 November 1995 vol 267 cc1039-40
3. Mr. Viggers

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the release of defence land in the Gosport area. [812]

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Nicholas Soames)

Where it is not possible for my Department to find alternative uses for redundant sites, we seek to dispose of the surplus land as quickly as possible.

Mr. Viggers

I thank my hon. Friend for the manner in which the Ministry of Defence has co-operated with local authorities over the release of defence land. Does he agree that the proposed development of the Portsmouth harbour region, involving some £100 million of investment, backed by some £40 million from the millennium fund, offers an unprecedented opportunity to local authorities to develop their land sensitively? Will he undertake to maintain close contact with the local authorities, including, if necessary, at the appropriate time, a further ministerial meeting on the subject?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree that the project is extremely exciting, interesting and potentially rewarding. I shall be happy to see my hon. Friend at the head of a delegation to discuss those matters and I look forward to receiving that delegation at his convening.

Mr. Miller

The project in Gosport is extremely interesting. Will the Minister assure the House that, in discussions with local authorities such as that in the constituency of the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), careful consideration will be given, both to the need for low-cost housing in those communities and to economic development? What discussions is the Minister having with his colleagues in other Departments on those specific points?

Mr. Soames

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we always have regard to uses other than defence uses when we come to make such plans and, plainly, housing is one of them. We work extremely closely with the local authorities and, where possible, we try to conform to what they wish. As to our relationship with other Departments, plainly, in matters such as planning and the environment, we work absolutely cheek by jowl with them.

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