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The MOD Access Forum: Working Together for Safe Public Access to the Training Estate

In the foreground is a shallow grassy slope and behind appears to be the beach. In the centre of the image is a small building with red and white horizontal stripes and a large red flag.
A watchtower with a red flag, marking live firing taking place, at Altcar Ranges. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]
The MOD has what’s called “a policy presumption in favour of public access wherever this is compatible with operational and military training uses, public safety, security, conservation and the interests of tenants.” Basically, this means that the MOD encourages public access when it is appropriate and is responsible for making sure that the military training estate is looked after and is safe for the public, the military and others that use it.

Part of the role of the DIO’s Access & Recreation team is to ensure this compatibility, while maintaining the integrity of the MOD estate for its primary purpose, which is military use.

What is the MOD Access Forum?

One of the ways we manage this is by delivering the annual MOD Access Forum. The aim of the forum is to provide an opportunity for relevant MOD staff to meet with external stakeholders from statutory bodies like Natural England and DEFRA, the National Parks and user groups like The Ramblers and British Horse Society. We can then discuss relevant access and recreation issues, not only directly related to the MOD estate, but also in terms of national policy.

We have adapted the format of the Forum to include a site visit, where attendees can see some of the military activity that takes place on the estate or get a better understanding of the work of some areas of the DIO that are connected with access and recreation – these give our stakeholders a better understanding of issues that may arise when military activity and access and recreation are carried out in close proximity. This also gives us the opportunity to explain why we need the likes of Military Byelaws to manage access.

About Altcar Training Camp

The 2019 Forum was held at Altcar Training Camp, north of Liverpool. The site is over 140 years old and covers an area of around 250 hectares. The site, which is funded by the DIO, was gifted to the RFCA (Reserve Forces and Cadet Association) who manage all aspects of it. The River Alt runs through the Camp and leads to the River Mersey, and over half of the site includes the foreshore where the Range Danger Area lies.

The Camp can accommodate and feed up to 697 people. Both live and dry firing can take place at the Camp, which also has several facilities such as 10 ranges and three dry training areas, an obstacle course, explosive store houses, an Enhanced Dismounted Close Combat Trainer, four armouries, several sports pitches and many other facilities. It’s a great spot for both the three Services and the cadet forces to carry out training and other outdoor pursuits.

The site is also the only range complex in the country with a 38 lane 300-yard range, and boasts only one of four 1,000-yard ranges in the country!

What was covered

During the morning session there was a focus on UXO and the DIO Environmental and Ordnance Liability Management Explosive and Ordnance Clearance team kindly agreed to come along and do a presentation to the attendees about what they do, what they find and the risks.

After the presentation we took the attendees out onto Altcar Sands where they got the opportunity to get hands on and use some of the equipment to have a go at scanning for inert objects which we had pre-buried.

Four people on a beach, using equipment to find buried ordnance. In the foreground is a piece of scanning equipment on a wheel.
Public Access Forum attendees trying to find unexploded ordnance in an exercise. [Crown Copryight/MOD2019]
This was an effective way of being able to demonstrate how there are no short cuts in resolving issues of UXO contamination and how resource intensive this technical work can be.

After lunch the group convened for a more formal meeting where we were given an insight in to the Defence Training Estate and the challenges we are currently experiencing such as an increased number of recorded incursions, particularly across the training estate, issues of increasing risks due to wild fire and the impact of Ash Dieback. There was an opportunity to discuss these issues and consider possible solutions to tackle these together with the attendees, with a focus on developing better more joined up communications. Forthcoming improvements to the mapping of MOD land on Ordnance Survey Ltd Digital Mapping were also raised.

There was a big push for the user groups to take away the main messages about public safety on military lands, and how we hope to better publicise the recreational opportunities that are available on the estate. We encouraged the group to promote them to their membership, either through their own publications or by promoting the MOD's own resources.

It is hoped that this continued liaison with stakeholders will help to tackle the perceived lack or loss of understanding by the public about the hazards that illegal access on to the MOD estate can create. We hope that by working together we can provide a safe place for all users.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Karl posted on

    It’s a crying shame that in other parts of the country land where uninterrupted public access has been enjoyed since the 19th Century has been arbitrarily closed without any form of public consultation, including the above mentioned stakeholders.


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