THE owner of a gun shop, who proposes to open a long-distance shooting range in Eskdalemuir, says the business it will generate will bring in half a million pounds annually to the valley.
Marc Gardner of Gardners Guns in Longtown will operate the range at Clerkhill, owned by Eskdalemuir Forestry which is itself owned by Austrian timber company Kronospan.
The company says that, because of its remoteness, the noise from the firing will be no louder than a passing vehicle and quieter than a lawnmower as assessed at various locations surrounding the range.
Eskdalemuir Forestry submitted a full retrospective planning application last November to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning authority.
A Gardners Guns spokesperson said: “Planning was originally applied for in February 2020.
“In March 2020 the planners asked us to revise the application wording and submit for full approval instead of a pre-application.
“This was done in July 2020 and was delayed because of the lockdown.
“After a site visit in October 2020, we were again advised to resubmit after recommendations made on site, hence the November 2020 date of the final application.”
The business was established in 2005 as a gun shop and soon expanded into providing a 100-yard shooting range on land owned by Marc near Longtown.
The club was set up within the guidelines of the Home Office and approval was given because of the strong ethos of the safety and training he and his employees provided.
Over the years he developed additional facilities for the now 500-strong membership to include a long-distance shooting range.
Marc formerly operated the shooting range at Over Cassock but withdrew from this site and now no longer has any connection with it.
Both Over Cassock and Clerkhill were given Home Office approval and, after a full inspection and assessment by Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria firearms departments, the first range at Over Cassock was opened in 2017.
Planning permission was applied for in November 2018 after it became clear that the range’s usage would exceed the 28-day limit for developments without planning permission.
Alongside this range, Marc was developing Clerkhill, purpose-planned and built using the JSP403 document for range safety. It was due to open in early 2020.
The spokesperson said: “In late 2019 a decision was made to withdraw from the Over Cassock site because of an inability to reach agreement with the landowner about providing further infrastructure to bring the range up to our standards.
“At this point, we notified the firearms departments and the Home Office of our withdrawal and the range’s closure.
“From that point on, Gardners Guns Ltd and Marc Gardner have had nothing to do with any ongoing issues at Over Cassock.
“The Clerkhill site opened on March 26. It has had a number of assessments and inspections by the police and others in authority and deemed the top of its class in safety.
“The estate encompasses more than 30,000 acres and the range is sited well within its boundaries, with the outer safety zone of the range being fully fenced and visibly marked by warning signs and flags.
“Gardners Guns currently employs two people part time but this will rise to two full-time staff over the next two years, plus at least four part-time staff.
“The planning application for the range was submitted in July 2020 with full council support, citing policies on business development in the rural area and on tourism.
“Since last November we have not used the range while waiting for full planning approval.
“We have had letters of support from a number of businesses in the area, including John Galloway, the chairman of the Langholm Alliance tourism sub-group, who can clearly see the economic impact this range has already had over the past 12 months, despite the ongoing pandemic.
“A financial impact report we commissioned shows a conservative estimate would be another £500,000 spent locally.”
THE Eskdale Hotel wrote a letter in support of the Clerkhill range which was developed by Gardners Guns.
“Over the last year businesses in and around Langholm has benefited from visitors and users of the range, with many hotels and guest houses hosting the clients, whether it be for military training or leisure guests for sporting.
“In addition to the accommodation taken by these guests, they use the shops, restaurants and garages and support the economy.
“All this activity brings much-needed revenue to an area which has suffered immensely with substantial job losses over the past few years.
“Tourism is one of the growing sectors in our fragile, rural economy and the Langholm Alliance has featured the growth of tourism as one of the key aspects of its community action plan to try to revitalise the town and surrounding areas.”
A resident, commenting on the Over Cassock proposal, said: As one of the nearest neighbouring houses, I can confirm that, within the three years of my residency, I can honestly say that I’ve not heard a single gunshot from or been disturbed in any way.
“The range itself, along with its associated building, is completely hidden in a valley and not visible from the public road.”
Harry Drescher and Pieter Buitendijk, chief executive officers of Solid Solution Designs in The Netherlands, said they regularly visited the shooting range and Gardners Guns gun shop.
They said: “For our groups of international shooters and / or law enforcement training, it would be extremely convenient if planning approval was given.
“This would absolutely increase our training and business development possibilities.”
A director of Edgar Brothers in Macclesfield added: “I’m writing to confirm our intention, subject to planning approval, to use the Gardners Guns range complex during the year for both commercial testing and dealer support days and encourage the growth of competitive shooting sports.”
He said the range would offer many benefits to the community in and around Eskdalemuir in terms of more jobs at the range and year-round tourist money.
Edgar Brothers, one of Gardners Guns main wholesalers, fully supported this ambition.