The MoD have been planning for the past couple of years to close off public access to what they call the “danger area”. This means the shooting areas and all of the surrounding roads with the result of significantly limiting public access.
There are bylaws in place (dating back to 1885) protecting rights of public access to the land when firing and military exercises are not taking place. During firing/military exercises the MoD must clearly mark this by the use of red flags and lamps around the perimiter. Before such bylaws were in place this was common land which many locals were able to graze their livestock on.
In April 2020 the MoD were putting forward for public consultation their plans for further restricting the public right of access. Instead what they have done is used the current COVID-19 pandemic as a smoke screen to close off access. At a time when many thousands of people are dying from covid-19 including front line NHS workers, I find the MoD’s behaviour deplorable.
I took up the matter of the MoD’s plan with Michael Gove MP back in early January when the new gates started to be installed. I had been told by a worker on the front gate that the MoD were going to “close off the ranges”. Michael Gove responded and passed on my query to the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP. In my letter I outlined a number of issues including the vandelism which is unacceptable. I also raised my concerns when reporting vandalism to the front gate staff it was clearly dismissed. A number of people have reported the same happening to them. The response I received, through Michael Gove MP from Jeremy Quin (Minister of State for Defence Procurement) focussed wholey on vandelism.