APPLICATIONS for two controversial shooting ranges in Eskdalemuir have been declared invalid by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning authority.
The applicants have now been told to withdraw their existing plans and, if they wish to submit fresh applications, they must be “major developments” and not “local developments”.
This means a public consultation must be held before new applications are submitted.
The Clerkhill plan was proposed by Eskdalemuir Forestry and would be operated by Gardners Guns of Longtown.
The range at Over Cassock was put forward by E Glendinning and would be run by the Fifty Caliber Shooting Association.
The authority’s Robert Duncan, team leader, major developments, wrote to both applicants last week.
He said the applications had been considered to be “local developments” because the areas covered by the physical developments were under two hectares.
He added: “Representations were received covering a range of material considerations, including our decision to accept them as “local developments”.
“We have sought independent legal advice and this advice has concluded that, because the applications seek a change of use, the whole sites contained within the fenced areas should be considered as the application site rather than that covered by the physical development.
“On that basis, the actual application sites are more than two hectares and would fall under the “major developments” category.”
Mr Duncan said this meant a pre-application consultation with the public would have to be done over a period of at least 12 weeks and also a design and access statement.
Eskdalemuir community council said it was pleased to hear the planning authority had reverted to the position it adopted last November.
It had consistently asked for them to be treated as “major developments”.
In a statement, it said: “The public and authorities must know the full extent of the operators’ plans before any future applications are evaluated.
“To date, these remains obscure. What are the true purposes of the ranges?
“The applicants’ documentation, online advertising and representation from operators and businesses referred to a long list of activities.
“These ranged from international long-range shooting competitions, simulated sniper experience events, training for police forces and military and private security firms to product testing and marketing by weapons’ dealers.
“Eskdalemuir saw what began as a temporary planning application for a hut and car park grow into what the operator was promoting online as Eskdalemuir 2k Training Range, the UK home to US Military Long Range Shooting Training.
“Looking into the scant details of the applications and other published materials, many questions have been raised which remain unanswered.”
The community council asked questions of Police Scotland, Cumbria Police, the local authority and national government and found many anomalies over the inspection and approval of private ranges.
It is concerned that, despite no planning permission ever being granted, events took place at Over Cassock and Clerkhill, including competitions and military exercises which caused disturbance to residents.
The statement added: “This must be addressed before any new applications are considered.
“The UK government’s current laissez-faire approach of allowing self-regulation by operators when it comes to range safety is unsatisfactory.
“It seems bizarre that a commercial dispute with a landowner and business rivalry between two gun clubs in an emerging market has led to applications for two ranges of a type previously unknown and untested outside of the Ministry of Defence Estate.
“The community council will continue to press the new Scottish government to ensure planning law and safety legislation are made fit for purpose to evaluate these and similar applications.
“The voice of the community of Eskdalemuir has been heard loudly and clearly.
“Our role is to ensure it must continue to be listened to.”