September 2 2014 Latest news:
Chris Hill, Rural affairs correspondent
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
A plan to extend a combat games battlefield in woodland at Stratton Strawless has been defeated following staunch local resistance from villagers.
A round of public applause greeted the decision made by Broadland District Council’s planning committee earlier today, which rejected the proposals against the recommendations of planning officers.
The council received more than 40 letters of objection to the application, which sought permission to host military-themed games in the 45-acre Shorthorn Woods, up to 96 days per year.
The complaints included the noise levels from air guns and explosions, an increase in traffic, a fire risk from campers and the impact on the tranquility of the village, between Norwich and Aylsham.
Other concerns related to the “intimidating” sight of camouflage-clad competitors running around in woodland surrounding properties and gardens, and the potential disruption to wildlife – in particular grass snakes, deer and bats.
But the district’s ecology and environmental health officers had not objected to the plans and suggested they should be approved for a temporary period, subject to conditions including the creation of “buffer zones” and the implementation of a hazard management plan.
The objectors were led by Trevor Dann, chairman of Stratton Strawless Parish Council, who read from an advert describing the activities as “gritty and exciting military-themed action.”
“There may well be a demand for it, but to site one in the middle of our small village is insane,” he said. “It is an unsustainable and environmentally damaging application. The woodland is home to many birds and animals, not to mention the deer which roam through there at will.”
Sally Bish, a neighbouring resident, said her family could see part of the site from their home. “It means we can also be seen very easily by those taking part,” she said. “This has devastated our privacy, as anybody can run and creep around our garden boundary in full combat gear, with masks on, letting off explosions – and we have to tolerate it. It is very intimidating.”
The applicant Joshua Smith, from Peterborough, said combat games activity had been taking place in the area since August 2008, when events began running once a month.
“The activity and the noise had been going on since 2008, but we had no complaints whatsoever until I dropped a (storage) container in there in September 2011. I attended a parish council meeting in February 2012 to discuss the possibility of making the site work, but it has been a closed door ever since.”
Peter Balcombe, one of the committee members who voted against the scheme, said: “It is an alien development which does not appear to bring any natural benefit to local people, and questionably threatens the wildlife in this woodland. It should be thrown out.”