Residents of Ash & Ash Vale today protested against the closure of Ash Ranges one year ago. Wearing face masks and keeping socially distanced, the protesters walked towards the main gate in protest against the closures to areas of Ash Ranges. Reverend Neil Lambert (St Marys Church) spoke to the crowd as they tied ribbons to the main gate and raised placards to “KEEP ASH RANGES OPEN”.
He said, “The MoD think they can do what they want” and “If the MoD can get away with this then we are not living in a democracy”, which was greeted by cheers and applause from the protest group.
Speaking to Rev Neil Lambert after the protest he said that there are up to Sixty examples of miss-representations to the local residents to explain why the ranges have been closed. He was angry as the group believes that these reasons are unsubstantiated as none of which could be evidenced as true. He said “We have to defend our rights, and it’s not just happening here, it’s happening in Aldershot, Hampshire”. Furthermore, he went on to explain that the Ash Ranges Byelaws are clear that when the firing ranges are in use and the flags are up. Then the area is closed however if the area is not in use (when the flags are down), it is the Aldershot and District Military Lands Byelaws that applies.
Cllrs Nigel Manning (Ash Vale), Jo Randell (Ash Wharf), representing the wards most impacted were also in attendance. They explained what they have been doing as part of Ash Parish Council to support the campaign to Keep Ash Ranges Open. Cllrs Nigel Manning and Jo Randell explained their frustration following the meetings hosted by the MoD/DIO (Ministry of Defence / Defence Infrastructure Organisation) and pointed out the “inconsistencies presented by the MOD and their complete disregard of the residents of Ash and the surrounding community“.
Why was there a protest?
The Save Ash Ranges group see no reason why the use of the lands by the public cannot continue for the purposes of open-air recreation at all times when the Military Lands are not being used for Military purposes. The Save Ash Ranges group has pledged that they will continue to protest and mark this anniversary every year the Ash Ranges area is closed. These closures happened without warning or consultation and there has since been no coherent reason to justify this sudden closure.
The Group also stress that they are “100% supportive of our serving troops and their needs to train. They do a vital job, protecting our country, that many of us can’t or won’t do”.
What part of Ash Ranges is closed?
The Ash Ranges is a 1382 hectare nature reserve that stretches from Ash Vale to Pirbright. To the west of the ranges, bordering Ash Vale, lies 5 of the 7 firing ranges. Residents of Ash & Ash Vale have historically enjoyed public access to the ranges past the firing ranges (sometimes referred to as the complex) onto the wider RDA (Ranges Danger Area). As per the Byelaws Map, the west most boundary of the RDA has been closed to the public, which represents the most frequently used area of Ash Ranges as it provides direct access onto the wider RDA. This area also includes hard standing or tarmacked roads which makes this closed area highly accessible to those less abled residents who now cannot safely access Ash Ranges.
The closed area is approximately 330 acres (12%) or the total area of Ash Ranges.
The MoD Byelaws are available online for public view https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/surrey-byelaws.