Fringe Box



MP Gove Backs Campaigners Battling MoD to Reopen Ash Ranges For Recreation

Published on: 8 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 8 Oct, 2020

One of the new campaign banners that have been going up around Ash

By David Reading

Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove is backing Ash campaigners battling to persuade the Ministry of Defence to reopen parts of the Ash Ranges enjoyed by generations of walkers and ramblers.

Michael Gove, MP

For nearly 170 years, people have been allowed to use the ranges for recreation but in March this year the MoD closed off 12 per cent of the area, saying they had serious concerns about safety and vandalism.

The strength of local opinion became clear when 100 people tuned in to a Zoom meeting set up by the campaigners to talk to MoD officers and they were joined by 100 more on YouTube. Mr Gove, also Minister for the Cabinet Office, attended, telling the campaigners he accepted the land was a valuable amenity for people of his constituency.

He told The Dragon in a statement: “I support local residents and completely understand their concerns regarding access to the Ash Ranges. I have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to work with the MoD to find a solution.”

James Morgan-Yates – at the centre of the campaign

The campaign spokesman, James Morgan-Yates, said the online meeting showed Mr Gove just how important the Ash Ranges are for local people and that the issue was not going to go away

“I welcome any and all support from Michael Gove for his constituents on this,” he said. “I hope he will now force the MoD’s hand about their unsubstantiated and in some cases untrue claims given as reasons to close off parts of the ranges.

“I am sure he will be able to re-instate the sharing of the land between MoD and local residents that has been in place since the creation of the ranges in 1855.”

The campaigners have now stepped up their fight by displaying large banners around the village, declaring, “Stop the MoD land grab. Save Ash Ranges for all.”

Their Facebook page has 823 members, another example of the strength of interest in the campaign.

Mr Morgan-Yates said they were also considering various options, including compilation of a comprehensive record of the facts surrounding the closure, separating them from what he claims is false information supplied by the DIO (the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation).

He said the campaigners want the MoD to explain how a large quantity of old railway sleepers covered in tar was dumped on woodland within a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This has been reported to Natural England, the government’s adviser for the natural environment.

The MoD has been asked for a comment.

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