DEFENCE Secretary Gavin Williamson is to visit Taunton this week - including a visit to Norton Manor Camp, which is set to close.

The Secretary of State will also visit the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in Taunton, which has just undergone a major overhaul.

The visit, on Friday, comes after campaigners called for the Marines to remain in the County Town, despite Government plans to close Norton Manor by 2028.

Taunton MP, Rebecca Pow, said: “I’m delighted to have secured this visit by the Secretary of State to two of Taunton’s vital defence facilities.

"To be able to keep our Royal Marines at Norton Camp, and to be able to grow the future capabilities of the Hydrographic Office will really put Taunton on the map in terms of business growth and military strength.

"These two historic institutions have done so much for this town, and they deserve to remain, and grow in Taunton.”

Although the future location of 40 Commando is still subject to assessment, in a letter to Rebecca back in November, the Secretary of State wrote that they would remain at the camp until 2028, and long-term in the South West. 

The move to close Norton Manor was announced in November 2016, with Ms Pow telling Parliament it was based on the wishes of the Marines

"This, tied in with the savings of a more streamlined and cost effective defence estate, makes the decision the sensible in the long-term," she said. 

But she has since campaigned to keep the unit at its Taunton base, which the Marines have called home for 35 years. 

In December, your County Gazette launched the Keep The Camp initiative, backed by the likes of Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Kevin de Val.

READ MORE: County Gazette launches campaign to keep 40 Commando in Taunton

Mr Williamson said: "You (Ms Pow) have been a great advocate for defence, including the 40 Commando, Royal Marines in your constituency and I understand the strength of feeling regarding the relocation of military units which have a deep-rooted history within the local community."

Meanwhile, Ms Pow said she has been working at Government level to make the case that Taunton would be the ideal place for one of the Geospatial Commission’s geospatial hubs, building on the expertise of the UK Hydrographic Office’s oceanic data-gathering skills.

If successful, the hub will make an important contribution to the economy and skills base of Taunton. 

Staff at the UKHO have moved into new, state-of-the-art premises after a major rebuilding project at the site, in Admiralty Way.

READ MORE: Take a look at the new UKHO buildings in Taunton

Somerset County Gazette: