Row breaks out over safety at ‘death trap’ firing range near Thetford

Troops from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps and 8 Field Company (Para) and 7 Ai

Troops from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps and 8 Field Company (Para) and 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers train at Stanta - Credit: Corporal Andy Reddy RLC

There is an ongoing row between a union and the Ministry of Defence over the potential safety of people walking near military training areas.

There can be no doubting it is home to our region's most dangerous terrain.

For three quarters of a century, 11,000 hectares of Thetford Forest have been handed over to the military for training purposes, including live firing exercises.

Now, though, an extraordinary row has broken out over the safety of the Stanford Training Area (STANTA). The union Unite has warned that it and other military training sites will become 'death traps' because of a decision to change the roles of 'range wardens' who monitor the zones.

They are calling on the Ministry of Defence and contractor Landmarc to reverse the decision, which they warn could lead to members of the public inadvertently finding themselves in the firing line.

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Bob Middleton, regional officer for the union, said: 'A family with young children out walking the family labrador could take a wrong turn and be blown to smithereens.'

The MoD, however, insist that safety will not be compromised and that the wardens will still oversee the ranges, when they are in use.

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Meanwhile, Julian Gibson, clerk of Wretham Parish Council - which is near the area - said that any danger posed by the range was minimal.

'STANTA is full of people shooting guns, it is not a good place to go for a walk,' he said. 'I don't know anyone who makes a habit of going in there.

'There are signs warning you that you're going into the firing area, and I know there are red flags flown when they're firing.

'People would have to climb a fence, go past the signs and walk quite a distance before they got to a dangerous area.'

Under proposed changes, range wardens are to be asked to take on other responsibilities, something the union argues could weaken their safety role.

A spokesman for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), part of the MOD, said the organisation works together with Landmarc to provide 'a safe place for the military to train'.

A Landmarc spokesperson said the organisations worked together 'to ensure the military training estates are safe, sustainable and effective'.

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