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Hansard 10 July: Column 666-672 ...
Hansard 10 July: Column 666-672

A Bill promoted by West Berkshire Council to return public access to Greenham and Crookham Coomons - made famous worldwide by anti-nuclear protests there - was given a second reading.

It was introduced by David Rendel, Liberal Democrat MP for Newbury and former district councillor, who said before the second world war the adjoining commons were areas of heathland open to the public and over which common rights were exercised.

Most of the land was requisitioned in 1941 for use as an air base. Although derequisitioned in 1947, it was rerequisitioned in 1951 and subsequently purchased by the government and used again as an air base, mainly for the United States Air Force.

A trust has been established, and help towards the council's£2.5m costs to restore the commons to fitness for public access was also coming from organisations including English Partnerships and English Nature.

The Bill creates a new, locally accountable body, the Greenham and Crookham Common Commission, to assist in the management of the common. There will be an equal number of commissioners appointed by the public and other bodies and elected by the commoners themselves.

New general duties are placed on the council, and the Bill contains measures to regulate public access and the exercise of commoners' rights, to avoid conflict and ensure conservation of an important area of ecological, cultural and historic significance, said Mr Rendel.

He said three outstanding petitions remained against the Bill, all concerned with matters of detail. However, the petitioners, - the Open Spaces Society, English Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - all supported the Bill in principle.

Mr Rendel said he and the council would do everything they could to meet any remaining reservations the petitioners might have by introducing amendments in committee.

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