Ash Ranges Update:
Earlier this year Cllr Nigel Manning and the Save Ash Ranges group wrote to Jeremy Quin MP (Minister of State for Defence Procurement responsible for the MOD estate) to robustly demand the MOD (Ministry of Defence) / DIO (Defence Infrastructure Organisation) restore full public access to Ash Ranges. Tensions have continued to rise as the MOD refuse to come to the negotiating table following the closure of areas of Ash Ranges sparking local protests at the main gate to mark a years’ loss of amenity.
In a recent video debate Cllr Nigel Manning and Ash Parish Council was accused of being slow to act with regards to the closure of Ash Ranges, in reply he said:
“The fact is that when Ash Parish Council got to hear through the grape vine in December 2019, that the MOD were thinking of shutting the Ranges, we wrote to the MOD saying we want an urgent meeting to discuss what we had heard is happening.”
“It took 5 months for the MOD to contact us to arrange a meeting and that was only because the Parish Council wrote to the local MP (Michael Gove) and also the Minister for the Defence Estates (Jeremy Quin) to voice our concern an annoyance at what was being proposed and what subsequently happened on 1st April 2020.”
“I have had at least 6 meetings with the MOD / DIO and a number of telephone conversations, to suggest that the Parish Council was slow to act is utter lies and is incorrect. We’ve been in there since before the ranges shut trying to talk sense into the MOD/ DIO and a number of letters have been written by me on behalf of the Ash Parish Council and residents to Jeremy Quinn to try and get him to meet with myself the and with campaigners to discuss a possible way forward”
Now in an effort to escalate the matter further Cllr Nigel Manning has shared his last letter sent on the 26 March 2021 with Ash Parish News, which has been copied to the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson MP).
Subject: RE: Ash Ranges
Sent: 26 March 2021 16:37
TO: Jeremy Quin MP
CC: Boris Johnson PM
It is with much disappointment that I have to write to you again as I have still not received the courtesy of a definitive reply to my email letter of 21st January 2021, copied below, despite my follow up email on 23rd February 2021, also copied below.
Whilst I appreciate you are very busy, especially at this time with the pandemic, is there not a Ministerial code that even Members of Parliament have to follow, when dealing with enquiries from the public? I am an elected Councillor and Chairman of Ash Parish Council, with responsibility for an electorate of nearly 14,000. I would certainly expect to substantively respond to any of my residents queries within 7 days, if not earlier. It is now 63 days since my communication to you!
The restricted access to Ash Ranges Firing Complex (ARFC), is causing substantial unrest within many of my community, even to the extent of criminal damage and trespass by some, even when live firing is taking place! Clearly feelings are running high, with even the local vicar openly breaking the MOD byelaws in an attempt to get arrested, to highlight this unfairness. This action is not condoned by me, but it serves to highlight the extent of the annoyance with the MOD closure.
This unrest has not been helped by the inconsistent messages sent out by MOD for the closure of the ARFC, including your letter dated 21 December 2020 to your colleague Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, the contents of which was the subject of my email to you on 21st January 2021. I attach your letter for ease of reference.
I am sure my residents, as would I, be most grateful for a full response to the matters that I have raised with you. If this cannot be done within 7 working days, may I please request a date by which I can expect a full reply?
Please provide an early and meaningful response that will help diffuse this situation.
Ash Parish Council