Defence Secretary saves iconic Larkhill point-to-point racecourse from closure
Rural campaigners have welcomed a last-minute intervention by the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, following reports that the much-loved Larkhill point-to-point racecourse had been earmarked for closure.
A report in The Sunday Telegraph confirms Mr Wallace has stepped in to stop the closure and was only first made aware of the ‘short-sighted’ plans, following a report in the media.
A source close to the Defence Secretary said: “It was drawn to the Defence Secretary’s attention by an article in the media. Until then he was unaware of this short-sighted decision. He has directed officials to renew the lease with immediate effect”.
The sourced added: “He [Mr Wallace] recognises that as custodian of the largest land holdings in the UK, the MOD has a duty to not only use the land to ensure our forces are best prepared but also that the local communities who have farmed or used the lands for centuries are supported”.
Larkhill is considered a central venue in the British point-to-point calendar, attracting thousands of visitors from across South West England and beyond.
While racing was due to continue for the 2022/23 pointing season, its future was in doubt until Mr Wallace’s intervention.
A campaign to oppose the closure of the racecourse, supported by the Countryside Alliance, was due to go live on Saturday 5th November.
Prior to the intervention, Tim Bonner the Alliance’s Chief Executive said: “The survival of Larkhill racecourse is considered to be critical for point-to-pointing but it also holds a special place in the hearts of people across Wiltshire. The races, which draw in thousands of people from across the South West and beyond to the benefit of many local businesses, bring service men and women and their families together with the local rural community. At the flick of pen from a Whitehall bureaucrat, the years of community cohesion and goodwill established, could be lost if the course were to disappear”. And Andrew Ritchie, chairman of the Larkhill racecourse committee said: “This much-loved racecourse has been on Salisbury Plain training area for 75 years. Throughout that time we have happily shared with the army and have always given priority to military training when necessary.”
Reacting to the news at the weekend, Polly Portwin, Director of the Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Hunting said: “This is incredibly promising news and we thank the Defence Secretary for recognising the important place Larkhill racecourse has in the hearts of many people across the countryside and its value to the sport of point-to-pointing. For many years the races have united local army families and the rural community. Long may racing continue at Larkhill.”