Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pounds 65 Million That Went Up in Smoke

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pounds 65 Million That Went Up in Smoke

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

The spending of pounds 65m on new military training facilities in Northumberland National Park is called into question by a study out today.

Two public inquiries totaling nine months and costing millions of pounds sat at Newcastle in 1997 and 1999 to examine what the Ministry of Defence claimed was a pressing and urgent national need for new developments at the Otterburn Range in the park.

The MoD said that these were needed to accommodate training with the AS90 self-propelled tracked artillery gun and the Multiple Launch Rocket System.

But today, the Council for National Parks claims: "All the signs are that the new development is now little used by the AS90 or MLRS."

The inquiries ended with approval being given and the pounds 65m scheme was completed in 2005, which saw the widening of 40km of road, 46 new gun spurs, 28km of new stone tracks, an unpaved road across moorland, technical observation posts and a new central maintenance and accommodation depot, says the council.

"If the AS90 and MLRS are not firing at levels described at the public inquiry, serious questions should be raised about the pressing national need which justified this major development and the public expenditure on it."

The CNP today releases research which it says is a new assessment of the relationship between the purpose of national parks as places of quiet public enjoyment and the need for military training.

The council is asking for an independent national inquiry with the aim of relieving some of the impacts of live firing, low flying and the military presence.

The Otterburn Range takes up almost a quarter of the national park. The council says that at the public inquiry, the MoD claimed that only Otterburn could absorb the long safety trace needed for the firing of the M28 rocket by the MLRS.

But the CNP says: "The current position is that no M28 rockets are planned now to be fired from the MLRS as they are no longer in use, undermining to some extent the original justification for Otterburn as the chosen training location. …

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