Military training grounds have become ‘death traps’, now that ‘look out’ range wardens have been withdrawn because of the Ministry of Defence’s drive to reduce costs, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
The proposal to remove the range wardens from the ranges formed a cornerstone of Landmarc’s pitch when it was bidding for the national training estate prime (NTEP) contract in 2014.
More than 80 sites are affected across the UK. (See ‘notes to news editors’)
In a letter to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said: “This important safety issue is no longer subject to discussion as Landmarc do not have enough employees to now cover all of the ranges that used to be covered under the Vanguard contract.
“Earlier last week a group of Gurkha soldiers, who were using the ranges at Hythe in Kent, decided to walk down the range they were using to the foreshore.
“The range next to them was still being used. They were, therefore, in the arc of fire and could have been injured or killed. I have been informed that following this incident the affected ranges were closed for two hours whilst there was an investigation.
“Had there been a range warden stationed at the range they would have been able to monitor the users’ behaviour, as they have always done and stop any unsafe practices.
“This incident was formally recorded and is just one of several incidents that have happened over the past few months.
“I am requesting the DIO review the decision to remove the range wardens from the ranges.”
Bob Middleton said today (Tuesday 19 April) said: “The firing ranges have become ‘death traps’ because the wardens, who used to look out for people inadvertently walking into the line of fire, have been withdrawn as part of Landmarc’s cost-cutting agenda rubber stamped by the defence ministry.
“We wrote to defence secretary Michael Fallon on this issue, but received no direct reply. Yet, a family with young children out walking the family labrador could take a wrong turn and be blown to smithereens because of the government’s privatisation agenda.
“Cost cutting can’t come before public safety. We urge ministers to order a rethink on what is happening – the public demands no less.
“The warden rangers have been withdrawn from monitoring the firing ranges and have been renamed training area operatives doing a variety of jobs – but not being wardens at the firing ranges.”
The Landmarc website states: “Our operational DNA is further enriched by a decade long partnership with the Ministry of Defence in the UK to ensure their military training estates are safe, effective and sustainable places to train the armed forces. We are currently 1,300 people strong and active across 120 sites in England.”
Notes to editors:
The sites affected are at:
SCOTLAND: Barry Buddon, Castlelaw, Garelochhead, Kirkcudbright and Inverness
NORTH of ENGLAND: Amblelside, Deverall, Feldom, Halton, Holcome Moor, Otterburn, Ripon, Warcop and Wathgill
WALES and WEST: Caerwent, Castlemartin, Kimmel Park, Kingsbury, Leek, Llansilin, Manobier, Nesscliff, Penally, Rogiet Moor, Sealand, Sennybridge , Swynnerton and Whittington
EAST of ENGLAND: Barnham, Barton Road, Beckingham, Bodney, Cherry Tree Woods, Friday Woods, Colchester, Donyland, Fingringhoe, Middlewick, Rock Farm, Thetford ranges, Yardley Chase, West Toffs and Wretham
SOUTH WEST ENGLAND: Anthony training area, Avon Camp, Bodmin, Bovington, Braunton Burrows, Chickerell and Bridging, Clophill Down, Dartmoor, Knock, Langport, Lulworth Cove, Millpool, Parsonage Farm, Penhale, Rollstone, Staddon Heights, Straight Point, Tregantle Fort, Wyke Regis, Yoxter, Warminster / Bulford Ranges, Westdown Camp and Woodbury Common
SOUTH EAST ENGLAND: Ash, Bramley and Barossa, Browndown,
Brunswick, Chilcombe, Crowbrough, Hythe, Longmoor, Lydd, Moodys Down, Napier, Pirbright, Otmoor, St Martins Plain and Tipner
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.