Category: Uncategorized

DIO’s poor behaviour isn’t limited to Ash Ranges

It has been no secret that the DIO’s poor behaviour and their lack of accountability isn’t just an issue for us here at Ash Ranges. Their behaviour and un-willingness to follow their own bye-laws, the law or ministerial direction extends across all of the Aldershot Military Lands.

At the start of lock-down in March 2020 when I first started publicising the AshRanges.com website, TAG (the Trail Action Group) reached out to me. Ever since Tag have helped support our aims at Ash Ranges. Their view is to ensure and protect recreational access across all Aldershot Military Lands. They have battled with the DIO and ministers for over 6 years regarding recreational access to Long Valley and despite direction from ministers to keep access open, the DIO have chosen to continue to erect fences and lock gates preventing public access when the lands are not in use. Sounds like a familiar story?

TAG have posted an update on the website here.

Red Flags mean Danger!

Today I received another visit from the MOD Police at my front door. They claim that yesterday a man with two children was witnessed entering the ranges whilst the red flags were flying and shooting was taking place.

Whilst we have and continue to challenge the permanent closure of the range complex we have also stood by the bye-laws and the fact that when the flags are flying, access to all parts of the ranges is forbidden. THe purpose of this is simple. Whilst the flags are flying, military use is in progress and thus it is unsafe to enter.

We certainly don’t want to see anyone hurt or any incursion of the ranges when the flags are flying. If the flags are up please stay out and please feel free to challenge anyone you see entering the ranges when the flags are flying. You can also phone the office at the front gate on 01252 325233.

We want to ensure everyone stays safe so

Red Flag means Danger and do not enter!

I am in the process of determining the truth behind the MOD POlice’s claim and will post an update. Irrespective of whether this is true or not the red flags should not be ignore.

Ash Parish Council adds their support to the campaign

After a significant amount of work by a few supporters, led by local resident and campaigner Carl Cookson, the chair of Ash Parish Council Nigel Manning has now publicly shown his support for the campaign. He has published a letter he has sent to Jeremy Quin MP (Minister for Defence Procurement), who has overall responsibility for the DIO, copying in our ever absent MP Michael Gove. In his letter he calls out the “blatant inconsistencies presented by the MOD and their complete disregard of the residents of Ash and the surrounding communities.” He also demands that Jeremy Quin MP restores full access with immediate effect and for the DIO to engage with open and constructive discussions with the community.

This is a major step forward with the work Carl and colleagues have put in to numerours meetings resulting in APC giving their support.

Nigel Manning’s full statement can be accessed via the following link https://www.ashpcsurrey.gov.uk/ash-ranges-statement-from-cllr-nigel-manning-chairman-of-ash-parish-council/

Ash Parish Council demand immediate re-opening of the Range Floors

It is through the dedication of our team that we have some great news to share with you all.

Ash Parish Council has long been seen as detractors of our movement to re-open the ranges, seemingly supporting the decision rather than being openly critical.

We have been working to turn this support into criticism and in the full council meeting on the 11th January, it was proposed for them to do just. They have agreed, with our core teams support, to write emails to the MOD and Jeremy Quin, including Michael Gove, demanding the re-opening of the Range floors immediately.

Nigel Manning, as council leader, is critical of the reasons for the closure, particularly the lack of evidence. He does not see the reasons as being in any way based on fact and in-fact the hypocrisy in their reasoning is clear. 

The conversations between our team and Nigel Manning and Jo Randall can be seen here. We thank all involved in getting us this far and will keep you informed when the critical letters are published.

Ash Parish Council Meeting

There is an Ash Parish Council meeting on Monday (11th January) night at 7pm. On the agenda is the topic of the Ash Ranges Closure.

Full details on the meeting and how to join online can be found here. This is an online only meeting, details including an MS Teams link is included within the agenda.

Happy New Year from the DIO

I was going to write a happy new year message thanking everyone for the support but with a New Year comes a fresh beginning for the DIO. Whilst they won’t admit they have made a total mess of 2020 managing to alieanate the local community, they have at least seen sense. See my video below.

I would like to thank Col Cook & Lt Col Bishop from DIO, Michael Gove MP and Ben Wallace MP.

My sincerest thanks go out to Carla Morson, Dr Al Pinkerton, Neil Lambert, Nath Khan, Simon Brown, Carl Cookson, Oli Mould, Sarah Alexander, Peter Corns, Kate Foster, my wife (for all of her support in keeping me honest and true) and to everyone who has supported is during the year. I see this as a real win, won orchestrated by every person who has posted, sent letters, emails, put up posters or attended the protest. This is a real win for the local community so well done everyone.

A letter to the Parish Council

One of our founder members, Carl Cookson, has been working tirelessly in the background to bring the Parish Council onboard. With the help of Peter Corns, Sarah Alexander and Kate Foster they have made some significant progress. Carl has now written a letter to all Parish Councillors ahead of the next full council meeting and has asked me to share this with you:

Dear Councillors

Hope this email finds you well and you are managing to stay safe.

As you will know, Ash Ranges Danger Area has been closed since March 2020.

Since this time, my fellow campaigners and I have been trying to understand the reasons behind the closure and hold the MOD/DIO accountable for any claims. After our open meeting with our MP, MOD, Councillors and interested public in September, our campaign has been having regular meetings with the council, Councillors Manning and Randall representing Ash PC.

This series of meetings can be found on YouTube here. SaveAshRanges – YouTube

Each meeting, we have discussed how Ash PC could support the campaign, better understand the communications between the MOD and Council and also, ensure that Mr Gove is kept up to date with this issue. It is with the support of Nigel and Jo that Ash Ranges closure is back on the agenda for the next full council meeting.

This decision has not been taken lightly, but it has become apparent, via a long series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, that the Parish Council and the general public has been misled in the claims made by the MOD for the reasons to close the Ranges.

Our request is that the full council determines how it can, in the strongest terms, inform MOD that they do not accept the closure and the reasons given for it. We also want the MOD to start discussions on how this situation can be resolved, for the betterment of your parishioners.

There are five main points I want you to consider, which I feel shows the continued campaign of misinformation by the MOD, highlighting their reasons for closure and how each explanation can not be corroborated.

1.       Vandalism Costs

To better understand the arguments for closure and the numerous parts of disinformation by the MOD, I refer you to a presentation given to Ash PC and the press in August 2020. The presentation is available here. It is also reported on in the Guildford Dragon around the same time.

In this presentation, on page 19, it is stated that:

“Vandalism since 2015 and rectification costs have exceeded £170,000”

Reading this figure, our group decided that we would like to see the break down of these costs, and I raised an FOI for this in August 2020, available here which I would have assumed would be a simple case of making public the spreadsheet of what repairs contributed to this figure.

After a reply delaying in September, their response in October refused the request as the time taken to collate the information would exceed the time frames and cost associated with an FOI request.

I appealed this decision, still assuming that somewhere, someone had calculated the vandalism costs. I received a  reply on 11th December, which states the following, point 16 of the final letter.

“I have also determined that the costs of £170,000 published in the news article were based on corporate knowledge of such events, and have been advised that there is no recorded information held on how the actual figure was calculated.”

In short, the £170,000 figure has no basis in fact. The MOD has admitted that this figure can not be tied back to any list of incidents or attributed to vandalism in any way.

2.       Engagement with Ash PC

Back to the presentation, page 20 states

“2018 – 15th August Initial meeting with Ash Parish Council (PC) concerning intent to secure range floor area technical area.”

Councillor Manning at our last discussion confirmed that the only recollection of discussions with the MOD in August 2018 were concerning heavy plant movement in and around Heath Vale Bridge road to remove trees on the Range Area. This would have disrupted the local residents and users of the ranges.

Mr Corns requested any minutes or documentation of these discussions from both Ash PC and MOD in an FOI on 26th August, available here. The MOD stated in their reply that there is no record of conversations.

This lie from the MOD represents their continued willful disregard for both the local council and your parishioners. Either that or the Council has known about the closure for over two years and not made it public.

3.       Vandalism Photos

Page 21/22 of the presentation show damage done to support their vandalism claim. The pictures that show damage to fencing and gates can not be attributed to the closure. These external barriers will continue to be attractive to those in our society that want to commit these acts.

Further, some of the pictures are not from the closed area but represented as such. Henley gate and areas always publicly available are pictured. At least one of the photos presented to the council and the wider media the DIO did not have permission to use. The photograph inferred that the taker of the photograph which could be deduced is responsible for criminally damaging the ranges. This is flagrant disrespect of the public in general and the rules around copyright infringement.

Closing the danger area has only contributed to the problems as can be seen in the statistics presented on page 25.

It is to be noted, that this list includes 13 acts of criminal damage in 2020, up to 21st June, the latest list we have. As with point 1, it is not clear what the cost of this vandalism was, whether it was on the exterior fence line or would have been prevented by the closure.

Further, the number of incidents has increased, but mostly in a time of closure. The actions of the MOD has no doubt contributed to this rise, particularly as the more responsible members of the public are no longer patrolling the area. This closed-off area has become a mecca for those in our community who want to cause damage, the chances of detection have dropped significantly.

4.       Lost Training Hours

On 2nd September, and posted on the council website on 10th September, there was a meeting with the MOD and councillors. Councillor Manning states in this letter available here

“which was entirely due to the cost of vandalism and the hundreds of hours of military training lost each year because of misuse of the firing complex by the public. “

We have already debunked the vandalism costs. I raised another FOI to understand the hours lost on 11th September. The first response was on 2nd October

“A search for the information has now been completed within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and I can confirm that no information in scope of your request is held. “

It also made clear that this figure is just word of mouth. After appealing, the final response from the MOD in the same FOI as the vandalism costs, point 26, it is stated:

“However, I have been advised that MOD is unable to calculate the training hours lost if a booking was cancelled as a result of vandalism.”

I, and I hope you, expect more from our civil servants. This claim does not hold up to any scrutiny but has been used by the MOD to justify the closure to the council, MPs and Ash residents.

5.       Health and Safety

In the public meeting which Col Cook, Michael Gove and members of the council attended, available here, Col Cook brought up a further reason for closure, namely Health and Safety.

Again, we asked for the reports that would corroborate this claim. This FOI can be seen here.

This report states all risks have been mitigated. No action was required to be taken and there was no reason to exclude the public.

Col Cook mentions health and safety numerous times, including structures and public use which makes the area a dangerous place. Mr Manning has asked for information about how the closed area is any different to other areas that are still open. Henley Gate, Stoney Castle and ranges across the UK remain open, with the same structures and public access continues. Why has the closed area been singled out? This was requested on or around 16th October. In the last meeting with the councillors, it was clear that this information has not been given.

I apologies for the length of this email, but I wanted to ensure that councillors are educated of the continued discussions and the lack of evidence to support the reasons are highlighted. We are willing to discuss the future of Ash Ranges with the MOD and Ash PC, but to do this, we need to start with the return of opening up the ranges. This space has been the cornerstone of Ash prior to the purchase of the land in 1854. Since then, the community has enjoyed the freedom of access, when the flags are down.

The MOD has become a noisy neighbour, with total disrespect for the council and its community. We want to ensure the MOD are held to account for their reasons and start a fully educated discussion with the public.

I look forward to your discussions on the topic and hopefully we, as a community, can work with the MOD to reopen the ranges and work with them to fix the problems that led to the closure in the first place.

Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss further.

Regards

Carl Cookson

DIO’s illegal camera has been adjusted.

On the 20th December I reported on a camera that the DIO had previously installed on their main workshop. You can see the post here.

This camera was positioned in such a way that it pointed over the fence and thus was capturing images and video of people walking on the outside of the perimeter fence. There is no signs warning that CCTV is in operation and thus you are unable to provide consent prior to having been recorded. Prior consent is a fundemental right covered by UK Data Protection law including GDPR. Images and Video of a person constitute Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and cannot be recorded without the prior consent of the individual.

Everywhere you go that has CCTV cameras you will see warning signs that CCTV is in operation. The signs will also include a phone number to contact those responsible for the cameras. As the DIO have neither of these (both is the minimum required by law) they have breached UK Data Protection Law.

I have timestamped pictures dating back to 15th August 2020 although the camera was in operation long before then. During the Christmas period the camera has been changed. The following dates are worth noting:

  • 17th December – I reported the illegal camera to the MoD’s Data Protection Officer (DPO)
  • 18th December – I receive a response from the MoD’s DPO promising to investigate and to respond no later than 13th January 2021
  • 19th December – I have a picture of the camera still pointing at the same place, over the perimeter fence.
  • 27th December – I have a picture showing the camera has been adjusted. Clearly the DIO have had their hand forced.
  • 13th January – Response expected from the MoD DPO.

This makes it even more important for you to contact the MoD for copies of the videos that include yourself if you have every walked past that camera. See the bottom of this page for details. You can do it by email.

See the pictures below. Sorry for the different angles, at the time I wanted to be filmed taking a picture of their camera. In the coming days I will update this.

19th December 2020

27th December 2020

DIO’s illegal camera is filming you

Following on from my video regarding the DIO’s illegal camera, I wanted to clarify the situation. If you walk the perimeter path round by the south west corner, the bit that comes very close to the canal, you can see just over the fence the DIO’s main workshop for the ranges.

The picture to the right shows the camera circled in red. This camera points across and over the fence filming anyone who walks past on the outside of the perimiter fence. The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) legislates the use of CCTV cameras. This clearly states that the operator (in this case DIO) “must let people know when they are in an area where a surveillance stystem is in operation.” There should be clear signage which should:

  • be clearly visible and readable;
  • contain details of the organisation operating the system, the purpose for using the surveillance system and who to contact about the scheme (where these things are not obvious to those being monitored);
  • include basic contact details such as a simple website address telephone number or email contact
  • be an appropriate size depending on context. For example, whether they are viewed by pedestrians or car drivers.

There are no signs on display whatsoever. This means that you are not warned you are going to be recorded and thus not able to make an informed decision as to whether you continue forwards and allow yourself to be recorded or not.

This is a clear breach of data protection law, a law which was significantly enhanced in May 2018 as part of the introduction of GDPR. This gives individuals much greater control over their own data. Under the DPA any images or video that is captured is considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of the individual concerned. Therefore if you have walked by this camera then the DIO hold personally identifiable information about yourself WITHOUT your prior consent.

Under DPA you have the right to request a copy of every image and recording of yourself that the camera has captured by making a Subject Access Request. On Thursday I emailed the data protection officer for the MoD to report that their camera was illegal and to request the camera is removed and for copies of all images and recordings of myself. Under UK law they have to provide the images and recordings.

If you have walked past that camera I urge you to request the same.

Makin a subject access request is easy, you can do it via email to the MoD’s Data protection officer:

  • To: CIO-DPA@mod.gov.uk
  • CC: michael.gove.mp@parliament.uk, wallaceb@parliament.uk
  • Subject: Unlawful use of a CCTV camera at Ash Ranges

“Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you to complain about the unlawful collection of video images by a CCTV camera at Ash Ranges. The camera is posted up high on the wall of the main workshop but it is pointed at an area that also covers part of an area outside of the ranges on a public footpath. There are no warning signs that CCTV is in use and no signs about who to contact, i.e. who is responsible for the camera.

My not warning that CCTV is in use you are not giving people the option to hide their face or not be recorded. This breached my rights to chose not to go into the area so as to avoid being filmed. All CCTV cameras in public must be registered and have clear signage. There is no clear signage in this case.

I would like the camera removed as soon as possible. In line with data protection legislation I would like a copy of my own personal data from any footage captured by this camera. Data Protection legislation considers recognisable recordings and images capture by CCTV system as “personal Data”.

I look forward to your swift action and response.”

Another public show of support from St Mary’s Church

Over the past couple of weeks Planning officers from Guildford Borough Council have contacted those with Save Ash Ranges posters and banners threatening action if they aren’t taken down. Apparently those displayed on private property next to a road breach planning laws as they are termed as Advertising. We arent quite sure why GBC have decided to take single out our campaign. Clearly the DIO have friends in the community who have complained to GBC. What is clear is that the banners and posters have certainly rattled the DIO so well done to all of you who put posters in such prominant places. Special thanks to Lucy who has a banner right outside the main gates to the Ranges. Since that road is a private road GBC are powerless so at least the DIO have a daily reminder of the amount they have alienated the local residents.

Yesterday Revd Neil Lambert (St Mart’s Church) decided to take a stand using his projection screen to display our message clearly for all to see. Plus its not on a main road, but the church’s car park.

Asked for a quote Revd Lambert said the following.

Why a political poster at Christmas ? After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the next most political act in the history of the world was the incarnation and birth of our Lord. Your can read all about it in the Gospels. There is a reason why Herod killed all those children. Power, money …..I’m told that it is illegal to put this up. I look forward to defending my theology and rights in the dock, where the best theology should happen. I might be wrong but I feel l’m right. If you have another opinion please message me, Rev Neil ,Vicar of Ash Vale.