THE former weapons range at Braid Fell near Cairnryan has been left unmanned this week by the Ministry of Defence after it withdrew a four-man bomb disposal team yesterday, despite public safety fears.
Although the former World War Two air weapons site is still strewn with bombs and regarded as a hazard by community leaders the MOD say the risk is “as low as reasonably practical” and the members of the RAF’s 5131 (Bomb Disposal) squadron will now be deployed in Afganistan where the MOD say their skills are in “high demand to protect troops from explosive devices”.
The site, where 828 targets were removed in the past 12 months, including 110 unexploded weapons, will now be surveyed annually and a military team sent to deal with any targets found.
The Braid Fell area is used regularly by walkers, cyclists and fishermen and highlights public concern that Government spending cuts could be endangering lives.
Galloway MP and Shadow Defence Minister Russell Brown has expressed his “serious concern” about the safety of Braid Fell following the removal of the service personal. He is calling for urgent clarification from the Ministry of Defence about what will be in place to protect the public from any remaining munitions still on site.
The MP has previously accused the Government of “walking away from a clear public safety risk” when they announced plans to withdraw service personal from the site last year. The date for the withdrawal had been pushed back twice until this week.
Russell Brown said: “I have serious concerns about safety of this former weapons range now that the Government has withdrawn permanent service personal. I had hoped they would use the delay in the withdrawal to review and overturn this decision and it is deeply disappointing that they haven’t.
“On average, two unexploded devices are found each week on this open land, which is popular with walkers and cyclists. To me, this is a clear public safety risk and the Government must not turn its back on Braid Fell.
“Public safety must always be paramount. I am seeking urgent assurances from the Ministry of Defence that safety won’t be compromised now that permanent personal aren’t based there. We need much more detail about how they plan to keep public off the land and how they will deal with any emergencies.”
Stranraer and North Rhins Councillor Iain Dick said: “Given the level of activity and the number of devices they appear to be dealing with I wonder why these personnel are being withdrawn and from where the service previously provided will now cone from.
“I understand the MOD will have operational reasons and that the Middle East will dominate the bulk of the armed forced activities.”
Fellow Rhins Councillor Willie Scobie added: “This highlights that the Tory Government don’t know what they are doing and quite prepared to compromise on public safety.
“Someone could get killed wondering where they might not be safe and coming across an unexploded bomb from the second world war.
“The MOD must think again in the interest of public safety given the unexploded munition that is found on Braid Fell.”