Response from Jeremy Quin MP
On the 11 May 2021 Cllr Nigel Manning met with the Save Our Spaces campaign on behalf of Ash Parish Council as the ward member for Ash Vale. He was asked to provide an update following the response to his letter to Jeremy Quin MP.
Nigel Manning said: “Following sending 3 emails to Jeremy Quin MP and then contacting the parliamentary correspondence unit to find out what protocol an MP has to follow for replying. Two days after I sent that email, I suddenly got a response. And that response basically says NO to reopening the ranges, but it does actually give more information that has not been provided up until now.”
“It does seem to show that the MOD has got specific figures. Clearly they must have had records from which to obtain those figures. It’s beyond me why they have been unable to provide these figures to you or me previously over the past year when it’s been asked for.”
Save Our Spaces campaign
After the meeting Ash Parish News contacted Carl Cookson to enquire about the launch of this campaign, he explained that “SaveOurSpaces.co.uk was established to be a voice for raising funds to get some definitive legal advice over the closure”. He said that other areas, not just Ash Ranges, are facing closure too with the land being sold off and that “it is the start of a larger campaign”.
You can help the campaign by donating to https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-our-spaces
Cllr Jo Randall, member for Ash Wharf, was also invited but was unable to join the meeting on this occasion due to technical difficulties, which had been experienced by others also.
The key points from the meeting are transcribed with a link to the YouTube video below.
Review of the letter
Cllr Nigel Manning has shared this letter publicly, explaining that as he is representing the residents of Ash, his letters to and from Jeremy Quin MP should be seen by residents. In the letter, Jeremy Quin explained that Vandalism is still occurring, including a photo of a Troop Shelter that had been vandalised since the access to the firing plate had been closed.
The full letter can be found here D/MSU 4-6-2-1-Cllr Nigel Manning
Mr Cookson suggested that this reported incident may have been mitigated if a casual member of the public had not been denied access, which may have too deterred the vandals since this was reported to have occurred in the middle of the day.
On the matter of the cost of vandalism justifying the closure of the ranges Kate Foster said: “It’s interesting, isn’t it, that with the very specific figures that they’re now giving is completely at odds with the information that they’ve been trying very hard not to give us at all, with our Freedom of Information requests. And then they came out with £171,000, which they then said was calculated by corporate knowledge, whatever that might be, and now suddenly we’re coming out with all these facts and figures, so you know either they were lying then or they’re lying now, is my summation”.
The group discussed the inconsistencies with the data provided compared to that previously given via Freedom of Information Requests (FIO) and at meetings held since the closure.
Upon reviewing the detail in the letter, Sarah Alexander remarked that, “This is a different response to the one we had when we issued the same question long ago. Which response is correct and why? Why is there a difference between the two responses?
Carl Cookson explained that, “The figures they have provided do not link to the closured they have made”. As in the original presentation, there was damage to an external gate, which would not have been mitigated by the closure of the ranges. Without understanding what issues they have had, how can the residents understand why closing the ranges would help mitigate the costs of repairing vandalism in the future to justify the closure.
Nigel Manning: “That’s one of the things I was going to write back on after this conversation, I am going to create a letter and point out the facts from your letter, it seems that since you’ve actually closed the firing plates, We’ve actually had more vandalism from your figures than previously suggested. Therefore, it hasn’t at all stop the problem.”
“What I want to do is try and get a win out of this for Ash Residents and others that use the Ranges. All the way through, Cllr Jo Randall and I have been trying to get the whole range / firing plate reopened.”
He went on to say that if there were some required improvements needed to re-enable access, provided it of a benefit to Ash residents and subject to Council approval Ash Parish Council (APC) could help with this cost, however now that the matter had been escalated to the MPs the DIO was unable to continue with that discussion further.
The group discussed that they’re preparing their case for a Judicial Review, Sarah Alexander described that funding is key, and the amount raised so far “has put us in a position where we are able now to take some proper legal advice and begin the process towards Judicial review.”
Kate Foster rallied the group saying, “We need to keep chipping away at their reasoning, there are so many arguments, they have shot themselves in the foot as they said we can’t give you the figures, and now they have produced all these lovely figures. They’ve said, you know, they only made this decision centrally, where in previous incarnations this has been on the cards since 2015.”
“It’s a matter of public record that what they do at the Ash Ranges is the blueprint of what they do else where, so everyone else ought to be very worried as well. So we are kind of in the vanguard, and that puts an extra responsibility on us to take them to task.”
For more information, visit the groups’ website at https://saveourspaces.co.uk/