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National Parks

Volume 264: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what new proposals he has concerning the extent of military activity in national parks. [36562]

My Department has no new proposals that will alter the current extent of military activity in national parks, which continue to provide essential facilities for our armed forces.

Will the Minister support a full public inquiry in relation to the proposed Ministry of Defence development in Northumberland national parkā€”an area that is already being subjected to intensive military activity? Does he realise that, as well as the environmental concerns expressed by the Ramblers Association and others, concern is felt in the urban area of Tyneside about the number of military convoys and the inadequacy of roads to accommodate them?

I do not think that the hon. Lady speaks for many people in that part of the world. There is massive support for the developments at Otterburn among all local people; the Army continues to be an important part of their lives. We hope very much that a sensible decision will he made early in 1996, and I hope that a planning inquiry will not be necessary.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the defence land agents and land command at Wilton on the sensitive way in which they have improved the management of the defence estate, and the use of the national parks and other countryside sites? Does he agree that the strange coalition who oppose the Army's sensible and sensitive development of the Otterburn ranges are anti-Army, anti-local people, anti-jobs and anti-countryside?

My hon. Friend is right. That coalition is also anti-defence and I am extremely grateful to him for his tremendous support for the services in his part of the world. The Ministry of Defence gives the highest possible priority to conservation and maintains close liaison with national parks officials at both national and local level. The MOD has an unparalleled and unrivalled reputation for its conservation programme and it does not need lessons from anyone in that regard. I am grateful to my hon. Friend.