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'It saved my life' - former soldier tells of impact of closure-threatened archery club

PUBLISHED: 10:26 03 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 July 2019

Phill Hannah and his therapy dog Buddy at Holt Archery and Air Gun Club. Picture: Archant

Phill Hannah and his therapy dog Buddy at Holt Archery and Air Gun Club. Picture: Archant

Archant

A former serviceman has spoken of how an archery and air rifle club in north Norfolk saved his life, as it stands threatened with closure.

Holt Woodland Archery and Air Gun Club, which has been ordered to shut down. Picture: ArchantHolt Woodland Archery and Air Gun Club, which has been ordered to shut down. Picture: Archant

After being discharged from the Queen's Dragoon Guards in Swanton Morley due to illness, Phill Hannah found it difficult to readjust to civilian life.

Removed from the military due to Lyme disease and suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Mr Hannah found himself in a dark place.

However, he said the discovery of Holt Woodland Archery and Air Rifle Club, around three years ago, was his saving grace.

He said: "I found the place totally by chance and it is now my sanctuary. I owe so much to it - it saved my life. Before I found it I felt completely lost and still now struggle from time to time."

Jon Hancock, founder of Holt Woodland Archery and Air Gun Club. Picture: ArchantJon Hancock, founder of Holt Woodland Archery and Air Gun Club. Picture: Archant

MORE: Council orders archery club which supports ex-military personnel to shut down





Mr Hannah, who served for 14 years before his illness, stumbled upon the club driving past and, for him, it has become a sanctuary.

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He added: "When I have my air rifle in my hands I'm totally focused on that and the world doesn't seem such a difficult place.

"But it is so much more than that - whenever things feel too much I just come here and get away from it all. Nowhere else gives me this opportunity."

The club, in 11 acres of private woodland off the A148, was set up in 2010 by Jon Hancock.

However, following complaints about noise, it is threatened with closure after North Norfolk District Council took enforcement action against Mr Hancock for operating without planning permission.

The council said the club was being run as a business - despite Mr Hancock saying he had no paid employees, no running water and was not required to pay business rates.

Mr Hancock said: "I appreciate the council has to respond to complaints and I have no issues with them doing their jobs, but it is a frustrating situation."

The club owner has lodged an appeal against the enforcement action with the Planning Inspectorate.

Meanwhile, a petition calling on the council to drop the enforcement case has gathered more than 140 signatures.

An NNDC spokesman said: "The council is enforcing in this particular case on an observed breach of planning regulations. The site owner has received regular communications from the council to ensure he is clear about any action being taken at each stage of the investigation."

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