ARCHAEOLOGIST David Dawson has welcomed the idea of a war film directed by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg being filmed on Salisbury Plain as long as surveys are carried out first to protect any hidden remains.

Mr Spielberg is to work with James Bond director Sam Mendes on the film 1917 but the flak began to fly last week when a national paper reported that the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, based at Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, was against the project.

But this week Mr Dawson said: "We do want an investigation to be carried out before filming takes place so the archaeology and environment can be protected but we are not objecting to the planning application.

"We want to work with the film makers. The idea of a film that will put national focus on Salisbury Plain is a wonderful idea."

Deputy county archaeologist Martin Brown said some surveys had already been carried out.

Storyworks Production Ltd has put in three planning applications to Wiltshire Council for the filming which include the building of a French farmstead on land near Shrewton owned by the Ministry of Defence. It also wants to create a large number of trenches.

It is expected that a large number of vehicles will have to visit the filming site each day. It is expected that filming will start at the end of April with day scenes shot from 7am to 7pm and night scenes from 4pm to 9pm.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: "It is important an archaeological assessment is carried out prior to any work on site, as we have to be sure this proposed temporary development doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to our rich archaeological heritage.

"This check also helps to avoid those preparing the film set from encountering any surprises that may delay the project. Our archaeologist has been working with the applicants’ representatives to resolve any outstanding issues and we anticipate a decision will be made shortly.”

The production company says the filming will bring benefit to the local community with people staying in nearby hotels and bed and breakfasts.

They are also hoping to recruit hundreds of extras from Wiltshire and surrounding counties. Men aged between 16 and 35 are needed by Two 10 Casting who said: "Filming hours can be long so whilst experience is not essential a positive can do attitude is a must."

Wiltshire Council said this week that the planning applications would be decided by officers and not go before a committee.