MOD Meeting Wednesday 1/2/12

Meeting on Wednesday Feb 1st between Pat Murphy (Chair, Elsteda PC), Jenny Else (Waverley Councillor) and Col. Richard Bishop (OC Training, MOD), Mjr. Bartlett (Landmarc) and James Nevitt (MOD civilian adviser).

Purpose - to find out what the MOD is really up to.

Briefing questions and bnackground notes, as discussed.


Report from Pat Murphy.

Jenny Else and I attended the meeting along with Sean Edwards from Thursley PC. On the MoD side, those attending were Lt Col Dickie Bishop, CO Training Areas South East, his deputy LT Col Roger Owen, Maj Malcolm Bartlett, Judith Williams , DIO Warminster, Claire Dalton, MoD Lands Surveyor, and James Nevitt, who deals with access and conservation for the DIO South-East.

> Col Bishop started by explaining the problems the MoD experienced in managing their training areas in the south-east. These were subject to vandalism, fly tipping (hence the CCTV cameras) and a range of illegal activities including trail biking. Owing to the cost of training troops abroad, more training now had to be carried out in the UK. This had increased pressure on the training areas in the south-east generally and on Hankley in particular. Figures were produced showing a steady increase in the number of training man-days over the past 5 years in the areas S1-S6 (Hankley and Elstead). In addition, some of the training area had been lost in the recent past to Natural England (ie Thursley Common) in the interests of conservation.

> The MoD had therefore to make the best use it could of its remaining training areas locally. One of the problems they faced was that they were precluded from using blank ammunition or any pyrotechnics within 300 metres of the public. This meant that the areas immediately to the north and east of the DZ huts was out of bounds for many types of training owing to the location near the DZ huts of the car park used by the general public. These areas were moreover important in that they allowed integrated exercises to be carried out which included areas both to the north of the huts (areas S1 and part of S2)  and to the south (areas S3 and the remainder of S2). If the car park could be moved somewhere slightly further east, this problem could be overcome. This was the reason for their plan to move the car park to the Polish Camp.

> Col Bishop apologised for the lack of full local consultation on the proposal; this had arisen, unfortunately, owing to the pressure on MoD arising from the recent staff cutbacks and the consequent decision to combine two large training area commands. The MoD had however taken note of the concerns expressed locally about the plan. As a result, the Polish Camp was no longer an option as it was clearly unacceptable to local interests (the recent work at the Polish Camp was largely routine scraping of the debris which accumulated there and was normally carried out every 5 years or so).

> He put forward three alternative sites:
> - a site at the south-east corner of the junction of Truxford Lane with Houndown Lane (ie about 3-400 metres south-east of the current car park)
> - a site on Houndown bank opposite the junction of Dye House Lane with the Thursley Rd (there used to be an open informal car park there some years ago)
> - the improvement and enlargement of the Pitch Place car park
> The first of these would need to be discussed with the owners of the riding stables and the second was not favoured by MoD as it might interfere with their command post on Houndown. But they would welcome the views of local residents on each of the options.

> Col Bishop also emphasised, very firmly, that the MoD had no plans to restrict public access to Hankley. Access as provided for in the bye-laws would continue, which meant that the permissive paths could continue to be used as at present. It emerged that this did not include use by cycles (or by horses, as we already knew, other than under licence). The MoD had no objection to 'made-up' permissive paths being used by cyclists, but the use of sand tracks (other than rights-of-way) was not normally permitted, partly for conservation reasons.

> Jenny and I made the point that the MoDs problems over the proposed car park closure had arisen largely because of the failure adequately to communicate with local interests and by what some regarded as the heavy-handed nature of  some of the publicity surrounding the dog waste issue. Col Bishop accepted both points. Judith Williams offered to prepare an information sheet outlining the MoD's position and its proposals, which would be passed to local councils. This should be available within the next fortnight or so. Also, the dog waste notices would be improved to make them less confrontational. Better signage was also being considered (ie the current bye-law notices were clearly not all that useful to walkers and riders and could be replaced by something more user-friendly). Further thought was being given to solutions to the dog waste problem, which was concentrated around the car parks. We suggested waste bins might be a good start!

> I mentioned the meeting on 10 Feb and asked if the MoD  were happy for me to convey to it the proposals outlined above. Col Bishop said he would be very happy to receive feedback from the meeting on the three alternative sites. He would also look into the MoD attending PC meetings in Elstead and Thursley to discuss their ideas more fully, but drew attention to the pressures on MoD staff as he was responsible for sites in more than 100 parishes. Finally, he confirmed that the DZ car park would not be closed until an acceptable alternative had been established.

> All in all, Jenny and I found this a  constructive meeting which I hope will point the way forward to a solution which we can all live with, even though it may not be ideal. But we have to recognise the pressures on the MoD in the current financial climate. And, as Col Bishop pointed out, the MoD are under no obligation to provide parking areas for the general public - any such provision is entirely voluntary.