Stealth claims over Ministry of Defence urban warfare centre plan

Soldiers practising urban fighting skills. Picture: MOD.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) plan to build a large 24-hour urban fighting skills centre beside people’s homes has been approved, despite a meeting hearing local residents could suffer from gunfire noise, that military families shouldn’t “be treated like second class citizens” and that the scheme had been introduced under the radar.

Councillor Pat Middlemiss called for answers over how the proposal, classed as a major application, for a 1,200sq m training facility and a briefing room between Scotton and Catterick Garrison, had come before Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee without residents being aware of it.

She said what had become clear was that the centre, where squads of soldiers will practise skills such as handling booby traps and room clearances, would be intensively used and that a wide area would be impacted by its floodlights.

However, unusually for a major planning application close to people’s homes, there had been no letters of either support or objection about the potentially controversial proposal.

Cllr Middlemiss, who represents Scotton, said the absence of feedback over the application had been “because nobody knows about this”.

She said: “I don’t believe it had been advertised very well. The parish council [meeting] last night mentioned it, but nobody seemed to know much about it.

“I am concerned about this because it is a large building next to residential houses, which doesn’t really concur with what is said in the officer’s report.

“On top of that it’s going to be 24/7, it’s going to be running all night and it’s obviously going to be doing exercises all night. Kennel Close is right next to it.

“What they’re saying is Army quarters are next to it, so they really don’t matter, which isn’t right. They are not second class citizens, they are people who live in houses. Also, we have got a lot of local residents that live in that area.

“We’ve had a lot of problems with noise before and I’m very concerned about the light and noise pollution that’s going to come with this. I don’t believe I have seen anything posted anywhere saying that this is going to happen.

“I am concerned about the way this has been dealt with. It isn’t just a matter of fact because it is MoD. It’s in a village where a lot of other people live. I’d like a few answers please. I’m the ward member and I didn’t even know it was happening.”

Planning officers said an advert had been placed in a newspaper to publicise the application in May and after the proposal had been lodged.

They added as a major application a site notice was required, but could not say where it had been placed. The meeting was told the officer’s computer system indicated 32 consultation letters had been sent to the nearest homes.

While the committee’s chairman, Councillor John Amsden, also asked for an explanation as to why nobody knew about the scheme, other councillors praised the planning officer’s report and said the MoD should be supported as “one of the major contributors to our economy”.

Ahead of the scheme being approved, Councillor Ian Threlfall added: “It’s not on the roadside. It’s in an area that’s already noisy. It is an urban warfare area. I’ve been there and it’s quite terrifying actually.”