THE fate of 1,000 workers at Taunton's UK Hydrographic Office could be decided before the Government Minister responsible for the service visits.

Defence Minister Derek Twigg is due in Taunton on Tuesday week to discuss the future of the UKHO.

The MoD is looking into either shifting the operation to Exeter, rebuilding it at its Admiralty Way site or transferring elsewhere in Taunton.

Taunton MP Jeremy Browne, who met Mr Twigg last month, is pressing for the UKHO to remain local - in tune with a County Gazette campaign.

Mr Browne has tabled a Commons motion to explain why relocating would be inconsistent with the designation of Taunton as a Principle Urban Area.

He has also held further meetings with Hydrographic Office Chief Executive Mike Robinson and union representative Brian Larkham.

Mr Browne said: "The crucial decision on the future location of the UKHO is expected in the next few weeks.

"I want to make sure that every argument has been made for retaining the service in Taunton.

"I have told the Government Minister that removing the Hydrographic Office would be a devastating blow for Taunton.

"Taunton has been designated as a Principal Urban Area. That will mean extra house building and more pressure on our roads and infrastructure.

"The trade-off must be extra jobs, economic investment and greater prosperity for local people."

Mr Browne added: "It would be mad to remove 1,000 public sector jobs from Taunton at the same time as the town is undertaking the development of thousands of new homes.

"I want Taunton to have an expanding economy with higher paid jobs and better career prospects for local people.

"If the Government shifts 1,000 jobs to Exeter that will seriously undermine Taunton.

"The UKHO does need modern offices to remain successful.

"Three local sites are being considered - the existing location, Firepool and Norton Fitzwarren.

"All of these have pros and cons, but what matters most is keeping the service in Taunton."