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Anger at police gun practice

A COUNTRY gentleman has threatened to arrest police officers if they use submachine guns on a firing range near his home.

A COUNTRY gentleman has threatened to arrest police officers if they use submachine guns on a firing range near his home.

Peter Black, 61, lives in the grade II listed Hampton Hall near Malpas only 100 yards from the Hampton range used by Cheshire Constabulary, and is frightened about the prospect of a stray bullet and fed up with the noise.

At the moment all is quiet while police appeal a Chester City Council decision to refuse permission for the height of a backstop to be raised.

But Mr Black, whose wife Marilyn is a retired magistrate, says if the shooting starts up again he will make a citizen's arrest on officers who use weapons including Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns which are capable of firing at 800 rounds a minute.

He said: 'I am saying I will go and arrest them under the Public Order Act.'

An unlikely opponent of police, Mr Black said he was deadly serious about his threat.

He said: 'My wife and I cannot continue living down the muzzle of eight submachine guns in the hands of learners.'

Mr Black is also unhappy the range is close to a public footpath and fears a child could wander into danger.

He says the fact police have lodged a planning appeal relating to the backstop is to 'oppose the will of the elected members of the council'.

But Cheshire Constabulary does not seem prepared to give up its fight to reopen the range where shooting ceased last November.

Police got into hot water with planners after a backstop mound, which prevents bullets going astray, was raised in height by an average of 1.25 metres.

This followed an inspection by military technical advisers who concluded the height should be increased.

Cheshire police described the work as 'maintenance' as they believed they were only reinstating the sandy mound to its former height.

This had been affected by a decade of use and by natural erosion. But concerns were raised by neighbours and police were asked to submit a retrospective application by planning enforcement officers at Chester City Council.

This was rejected by councillors on the grounds it would have a detrimental effect on the appearance of the landscape.

Cheshire police spokeswoman Brenda Cowling said: 'I can confirm we are appealing against the planning decision.' The issue will be decided by a government inspector.

Mrs Cowling said officers were travelling to locations outside the county for firearms training.

Environmental health officers (EHO) have also raised concerns about noise levels at the site. EHO Tim Braithwaite of Chester City Council met with police and it had been agreed acoustic engineers should look at the situation but then the foot and mouth crisis hit, so nobody could access the site.

Mr Black claims the Heckler and Koch MP5 weapons are used in automatic gun fire mode but Ms Cowling denied this.

She said: 'They fire in single shot mode. There would be no point practising on sub-machine-gun setting because they are not allowed to use them in this way in public.'

'What Mr Black is hearing is several officers discharging their weapons at the same time.'

She added: 'It is carried out under supervision and the activity is taken very seriously indeed.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
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