“On Wednesday 2 September a further meeting was held between Ash Parish Council and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and Landmarc (the engineering and maintenance part of DIO), to discuss the restriction of public access to the firing complex on the Ash Ranges and what solutions there may be to allow easier public access.
The MOD reiterated that The Aldershot and District Military Lands ByeLaws 1976 para 2 allowed them to fence off the firing complex, but they again expressed regret that this action had been necessary, 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. The MOD however thanked Ash Parish Council for representing the Ash residents, as they are not allowed to communicate directly with the public due to the involvement of Members of Parliament.
The MOD pointed out that the Ash Range Danger Area (RDA) actually enjoys much wider public access, even with the firing complex being fenced off, than many other RDA’s across the other military estates.
The MOD confirmed that because of the well reasoned arguments put forward by Ash Parish Council, a successful bid for further funds had been made which will now enable the perimeter path, around the north and south of the firing complex to a point where each path reaches the Range Danger Area (RDA), to be completed by 31 March 2021. This is of course subject to any adverse weather or unforeseen circumstances. There will be access gates to the RDA at these two points and at other points further along the path. Throughout the design process the MOD have been mindful of the Best Practice Guide for access for all produced by the Fieldfare Trust and have consulted with the Disability Ramblers Group at national level to produce a scheme that will enable ALL residents, including those with limited mobility, to access the RDA when there is no military action on the firing complex.
The path will be a minimum of 3 metres wide extending up to 6 metres in places. Some will be fully tarmaced roads, but most will be a minimum of 1.5 metres in width made up of crushed and compacted hardcore and levelled hardstanding suitable for wheel chair use, with the remaining 1.5 metres being grassed areas, suitable for equestrian and BMX use. In addition, some steep gradients on the existing narrower path will be avoided by means of a slight deviation to a newly created path.
Ash Parish Council continued to argue the case for a central corridor through the firing complex, between two firing ranges, to the RDA beyond. The MOD said that whilst they fully acknowledged this argument it would require complex audits of several technical and safety issues not least those arising from installing metal fencing between two firing ranges which would be necessary to obviate ricochet dangers, let alone the additional cost involved. Consequently this is not an immediate viable proposition although it remains a further option for consideration at a later date. However, the current enhanced plans will enable all to have much greater access, than the previous original proposals and these can be achieved within a much shorter time scale. “
Cllr Nigel Manning
Chairman – Ash Parish Council
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