THE huge scale of the task facing those in charge of moving 4,300 extra troops and their families to Salisbury Plain over the next four years was explained to councillors on Wednesday.

They heard that 1,217 new family homes will be needed for the soldiers’ 3,500 dependents.

Ideally 540 of these will be built north of the Packway at Larkhill, 277 on land off Bulford Road at Bulford, and 300 on the Corunna Barracks site at Ludgershall.

Because time is short and 100 homes are needed by next April, these will bought from the private Riverbourne Fields development at Tidworth.

In addition, accommodation blocks for single servicemen and women will be built ‘behind the wire’ at the various bases on the Plain.

Improvements to training facilities will include a new electronic target range in the Bulford Danger Area, an individual battle shooting range in the Central Impact Area, a new direct access point onto the training area from Bulford garrison to keep Army vehicles off the roads, and modifications to the Royal Engineers’ training area at Perham Down.

There will also be changes around Imber village and Copehill Down, to create a connected series of simulated settlements known as the Complex Manoeuvre Environment.

Wiltshire’s strategic planning committee, meeting at the City Hall, heard that there had been more than 300 responses to public consultations carried out so far.

People’s main concerns were about the impact of development on rural landscapes and the setting of Stonehenge – although the Larkhill development will not be visible from the monument - extra traffic on the A303, rat-running in the surrounding villages, pressure on schools, water supply and sewage disposal.

They were also worried about disturbance to endangered stone curlews.

But on the plus side, the committee heard that the rebasing programme would involve 1,500 construction jobs, and the MoD is encouraging contractors to use local workers.

There would also be some jobs in support services such as mess staff and maintenance.

And the incomers would mean a big boost for the local economy.

The committee noted the work done so far and urged the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to reach agreement with the council on several outstanding issues.

These include water abstraction, the effect of foul water discharge on phosphate levels in the River Avon, and the impact of increased recreational pressure on Salisbury Plain and its protected species.

There is also a need to find out what archaeological treasures might lie buried under the proposed building sites.

There will be individual planning applications for each housing development.

As yet there has been little detail given about essentials such as extra nursery school provision, shops, pubs, banks, leisure facilities, surgeries and bus services.