§ Mr. William Hamling
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what his plans are for the future of Woolwich Arsenal, now that he has decided not to reverse the decision to close the Royal Ordnance factory.
§ Mr. Mulley
The Royal Ordnance Factory's closure will make available for other uses a number of good buildings. Some of these will be readily adapted to house the Headquarters Staff of the Army Department Inspectorates. Part of these staffs are at present occupying buildings in the Arsenal, but the larger part are distributed in buildings elsewhere, mainly in Woolwich and Kid-brooke, and in smaller numbers at Farnborough (Hampshire) and Overley Hill (Shropshire). Certain other Government establishments of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Public Building and Works at Kidbrooke will also be accommodated in the Arsenal where some new building will be necessary. This concentration in the Arsenal will release valuable sites for housing. The majority of Government activities already in the Arsenal apart from the Royal Ordnance Factory cannot satisfactorily be removed elsewhere and will remain. Noisy activities such as the ranges will be removed to enable satisfactory residential development to take place on land surplus to requirements.273W
About 150 acres in two main areas will be retained for Government purposes and about 4,000 men will be employed. But most of these will be men who are carrying on with jobs previously carried out in other parts of the Woolwich area and elsewhere and, though we shall naturally do our best to find vacancies for the men made redundant as the result of the closure of the Royal Ordnance Factory, I am afraid that the number of such vacancies is likely to be limited. However, we do not expect that there will be difficulty in finding other employment for most of the men in an area where unfilled vacancies greatly exceed the number unemployed. About 1,000 acres of the surplus land at the Arsenal will, as already announced, be offered to the London County Council for development. Small areas totalling 18 acres have been offered to the Woolwich Borough Council mainly to enable the town centre to be expanded.
This decision on the future use of Government buildings to be retained is without prejudice to the question whether special provision for employment is needed in connection with the new housing development on the Arsenal and Erith Marshes sites. This will be considered together with the related problems of planning and communications by the Government Departments concerned.