Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Battle plans Part VI

The view North East from Holming Beam flagpole
Many months have passed since we have heard about the Ministry of Defence plans for Dartmoor's military training ranges.  The latest news comes courtesy of the Dartmoor Steering Group.  This group works in partnership with the MOD to encourage mutually agreeable use of the moor by the armed forces.  Many important stakeholders are represented on this group, who meet annually: The National Park Authority,  Duchy of Cornwall and Dartmoor Commoners Council to name just three.  Their most recent meeting was in November 2014 at Okehampton Camp.  

Following their own guidelines, the Dartmoor Steering Group publish the minutes of their meetings on the internet, usually within just a few weeks.  Today, after I tweeted the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) for them, the minutes from November's meeting have finally been published online here: Dartmoor Steering Group minutes; November 2014

If you've been following my Battle Plans posts over the past 4 years, you will know how much work was due for investment, but how budget cuts and delays were experienced in almost every scheme. One beacon of hope came in 2012, when the Dartmoor Steering Group had reassurance from the MOD that funding was secured for the work to replace Holming Beam hut.  Holming Beam hut looks like a temporary structure, situated at the end of a long metalled track north of Princetown.  Even in 2011, this building was considered to be reaching the end of it's useful life.  The Holming Beam area planned redevelopment including a less visually obtrusive mobile lookout and relocated flagpole appeared a real success story.  In 2014, HRH the Prince of Wales appointed architects to design the replacement building and consultation had begun.  With MOD funding to be made available in the 2013-4 financial year, construction would proceed in the year 2016-7.

However, and to quote the group's chairman: "disappointment and...significant annoyance" greeted the announcement from the DIO representative present at November's meeting that, despite the earlier assurances, funding for Holming Beam would not be available for another 2 years.  It was also suggested that the stakeholders may be forced to restate their case for any replacement, despite having done so repeatedly before.  Landscape, public safety, and visual obtrusiveness are key reasons given for both the redevelopment and for the wider Dartmoor byelaw review to include relocation of several flagpoles, huts and lookouts.

In May 2015, after a UK election result indicating further years of public spending cuts, any MOD investment in Dartmoor National Park's ranges will surely be scrutinised further.  Any byelaw review is unlikely until 2018, and the MOD's '2010-2020 Integrated Rural Management Plan' planned 2015 review, one suspects, is going to be a frustrating read.  When, and if any review is published, I'll report again.

See also:
Battle plans;
Battle plans Part II;
Battle Plans Part III - Any clearer?;
Battle Plans Part IV;
Battle Plans Part V

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