HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 c550
16. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

If he will make a statement on the future of the defence establishments at Shoeburyness. [55893]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Spellar)

The Horseshoe barracks, old ranges and Gunners park at Shoeburyness have been declared surplus to Ministry of Defence requirements and are being prepared for disposal. A draft planning brief has been agreed with the borough council and has been issued for public consultation. The MOD still has a requirement for the new ranges at Shoeburyness, and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency is seeking to enter into partnership with industry to operate those facilities. It is hoped that such a partnership will create new employment opportunities at Shoeburyness through increased exploitation of the site for non-defence purposes.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As DERA's rather surprising decision—supported by the Government—to change its policy on the new ranges will lead to an unemployment increase in an area that already has a high unemployment rate, will the Minister assure the House that the Department will work closely with Southend borough council to ensure that the land that becomes available will be used for attracting useful job opportunities to the area?

Mr. Spellar

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. The borough council is keen to obtain local views on the matter and will review the draft planning brief in the light of any comments received. We are working in co-operation with the council, and will be working closely with it precisely because we want the site to be returned to useful economic use and to offer employment possibilities.