WHAT DOES THE MOD SAY ABOUT DENYING ACCESS?

The MOD has made a number of different claims over the last year regarding its reasons for closure of the Ash Range floors. Upon closer inspection, these claims have been shown to be at best misleading and at worst, disingenuous. This is what they have said:

VandalismHealth And SafetyOnly 12 %

WHAT THE MOD HAVE SAID:

“The cost of vandalism is too high when the public have access – it has cost us £170,000 to repair damage done by vandals”

OUR RESPONSE:

If vandalism is the reason for closure, show us the evidence of
the cost, and that the solution of closure has been effective.

WHAT WE HAVE UNCOVERED:

Vandalism on the ranges has, regrettably occasionally occurred–as it does in any community on both public and private land. However:

  • Range logs do show that there has been disruption to training as a result of bad weather on occasion

  • They do not however record any instances of lost training due to vandalism or any other unauthorized access.

  • A MOD representative suggested (during a public meeting) that instances of vandalism are still occurring, despite the closure, suggesting that their solution has been wholly ineffective at addressing the problem. Vandals climb fences, and there are no law-abiding members of the public present to provide a deterrent or report
    suspicious behaviour

WHAT THE MOD HAVE SAID:

“We have lost too many training hours as a result of vandalism and other unauthorized access”

OUR RESPONSE:

Why is the MOD saying they have lost training hours when their own records show that this is unequivocally not the case?

WHAT WE HAVE UNCOVERED:

We have submitted a number of Freedom of Information requests on this topic – in this case requesting access to the range logs. Range logs keep a detailed record of the activities that take place on the ranges including any training that may have been disrupted and the reasons why

  • Range logs do show that there has been disruption to training as a result of bad weather on occasion

  • They do not however record any instances of lost training due to vandalism or any other unauthorized access

WHAT THE MOD HAVE SAID:

“We are concerned about public health & safety. The range floors are dangerous places, and we don’t want any injuries to occur to members of the public”

OUR RESPONSE:

Why does the MOD claim that public safety is a concern when there is no evidence that there are any issues?

WHAT WE HAVE UNCOVERED:

This claim is particularly difficult to unpick, as in one sense, it is so unanswerable.  We have therefore examined the topic of health & safety from a number of different angles:

ARE THE RANGES SAFE?

  • We have gained access to the results of a recent Health & Safety inspection of the range complex – whilst it is true that there are hazards on the range complex (such as machinery and drops), they are clearly signposted and marked with prominent warning notices, and the HSE is satisfied with the steps the MOD has taken to protect the public

  • Under another Freedom of Information request, we have discovered that there have been no reported injuries to members of the public whilst using the Ash Range complex in the last xx years

BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTECTING THE PUBLIC IN THE FUTURE?

  • It has been suggested by the MOD that they are looking to prevent any future accidents, rather than responding to historical ones.  However, the MOD is still allowing access to the Stoney Castle Range when not in use, which has exactly the same hazards as the Ash Range complex.  This suggests that the “future risk” policy is being applied for convenience, not to protect the public.

  • •In addition, the MOD allows cows to graze on certain areas of its land that are also open to the public.  Whilst livestock grazing is an effective & important part of heathland management, it cannot be said that cows are safe – in fact, they are classified as Britain’s most dangerous animal, killing an average of 3 people per year nationwide.  Again, the goal of reducing risk to members of the public does not hold true.

WHAT THE MOD HAVE SAID:

“We are concerned about public health & safety. The range floors are dangerous places, and we don’t want any injuries to occur to members of the public”

OUR RESPONSE:

There has not been any change in the use or make up of the Ranges for decades. Why now is it a problem? Why do other ranges remain open when Ash Ranges is closed with the same dangers?

WHAT WE HAVE UNCOVERED:

ARE THE RANGES SAFE THAN THE ALTERNATIVES?

  • Finally, we need to consider the wider definition of safety.  The Ash Range complex is used for dog walking, cycling, running and a host of other recreational activities.  The closure of the complex has forced residents to undertake many of these activities on our busy streets, or to try and access the treacherous perimeter path instead (which has led to a number of injuries amongst residents over the last year).

  • The Ash Range complex represents the safest place in the area to undertake a range of recreational activities as attested by Scout and Guide leaders as well as many in our community

WHAT THE MOD HAVE SAID:

“We have only closed off 12% of the total area available to residents – they still have plenty of other areas to use”

OUR RESPONSE:

Why is the MOD discriminating against the least able in our community, with no defensible reason?

WHAT WE HAVE UNCOVERED:

It may only be 12% of the land area, but it’s the most used 12% locally, with >84% of those surveyed using that 12%.

It’s also the only 12% that can be safely used by residents in wheelchairs, or those with other mobility issues.  It is the only 12% with tarmac paths that are smooth and mud-free.

It’s the 12% that sits in the heart of Ash Vale – other access points are further away and harder to access.

Saying ”it’s only 12%” only takes into account the land area, not the usage (which would be more expensive to buy, 12% of Central London, or 12% of rural Northumberland?).  It’s the 12% that is most used.

Featured Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

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