AS the debate about the best location to build 540 new army houses rages on, Claire Perry MP has added her voice to the growing opposition against development on the outskirts of Durrington.
Residents fear the village will get “swallowed up” if huge new estates are constructed on the outskirts and say the houses should be in Larkhill near shops, facilities and the army base.
As part of the Army 2020 project, thousands of soldiers are being brought back to Salisbury Plain from Germany and other bases.
Although much of the accommodation and infrastructure will be built “inside the wire” around 540 new homes are needed.
Local people, councillors, army commanders and Mrs Perry, have all said that building them south of the Packway in Larkhill makes sense.
However, planning restrictions prevent more development south of the Packway due to its proximity to Stonehenge and local people fear suggested sites there will be withdrawn, and building the homes on greenfield land near Durrington is more likely.
“We are delighted to welcome the army back and are glad they are coming to Salisbury Plain,” said Larkhill and Durrington councillor Graham Wright. “But they need to live near their work and welfare hub and that is Larkhill, not the edge of Durrington.
“There is a perfectly sensible site in Larkhill that would not be visible from Stonehenge.
“We are frustrated this is being withdrawn; conversations about the possibility of building there should have taken place a year ago.
“People are worried that the gap between Durrington and Larkhill will be closed and our identity will be lost in a great big sprawl.”
Residents made their concerns known at a packed public meeting recently, and 740 people have signed an online petition calling for the houses to be built south of the Packway.
On Friday, Mrs Perry looked at the proposed locations and spoke to local people before adding her voice to the campaign. “It is quite clear to me and to others that there is an option here that does not involve a huge greenfield development right next to Durrington,” she said.
“We are pleased about the Army 2020 plans for the area but not at the expense of swallowing up our existing communities.”
A spokesman for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation DIO which is co-ordinating the consultation said: “DIO is aware of local support for the potential site as well as concerns raised by English Heritage and will evaluate these views ahead of the formation of final proposals.
“DIO is engaged closely with statutory bodies, particularly English Heritage on sensitive issues.
“Once the submitted comments have been evaluated DIO will examine the relevant planning permissions necessary to support the final proposals.
“The formal consultation period will close on 1 April at 12 noon and all of the comments will be considered and the master plan setting out the context for the moves, infrastructure plans and the associated planning applications will be submitted to Wiltshire Council in May.”