NORTH Dorset MP Robert Walter has been given a written assurance on the future of Blandford Camp.

In a statement received on Friday, he was told that "a defence presence at Blandford will be maintained for the future" and this "will provide opportunities for local employment and regional income generation".

The statement, which was submitted to the House of Commons by defence secretary Des Browne, also talks of "not moving the headquarters of the Signals officer in chief".

Mr Walter had asked a series of questions about the future for the base, after the government announced the preferred bidder for a £16billion military training contract was a base in Wales.

The news came as a blow for campaigners who gathered 5,000 petition signatures to keep the defence college at Blandford Camp.

It means the college will be relocated in 2011, directly affecting 900 jobs.

It will also have an impact on the community as the camp supports a further 1,000 jobs in the local economy, and the Regional Development Agency has estimated the camp is worth around £300 million to the local area.

Mr Walter said: "I asked the minister to tell me if the headquarters of the Royal Corps of Signals would remain at Blandford and if the Signals officer in chief would continue to be based at the camp.

"Today's response to our petition confirms that I have got the government to think that that is the right way forward."

Mr Walter said he now wants a firm commitment that Blandford will become the natural home of all Signals regiments when they are in the UK, with technical support facilities.

He said he would discuss this with ministers and senior military officers in the coming weeks.