Residents urge action at fire-hit site

By Ted JeoryRESIDENTS living near an Army firing range have demanded action after the site was plagued by a spate of suspicious fires.They claimed the fires that have been started on Middlewick Ranges, Colchester, have come within 100 metres of setting light to houses that back on to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) land.

By Ted Jeory

RESIDENTS living near an Army firing range have demanded action after the site was plagued by a spate of suspicious fires.

They claimed the fires that have been started on Middlewick Ranges, Colchester, have come within 100 metres of setting light to houses that back on to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) land.

Old Heath Residents' Association members met MoD officials and representatives from Colchester Borough Council yesterday to demand action to tackle the problem.


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They were also concerned about rubbish strewn next to garden fences on the edge of the site, which they claimed was preventing ploughs coming in to build a firebreak.

The fed-up residents urged officials to come to agreement about whose responsibility it was for clearing up the mess

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Residents' association chairman, Dave Smith, of Speedwell Road, said his dog had been burned alive in 1995 after a fire spread into his garden.

“People are really worried about what's going on. We know it's some mindless kids starting some of the fires, endangering people's lives. They're getting a bit too close for comfort,” he added.

“Rubbish is a big issue around here - it's been here for years. While it's there, they can't get through with the ploughs they are going to need to build a ditch.”

Terry Sutton, borough councillor for the area, said he would look to see how the council could work with the MoD to solve the problems.

“I do recognise that there is some confusion for people about who to complain to if they have a problem with anything that's going on with this land, but I would urge people to contact the council and we will get the right guidance,” he added.

“Obviously, the MoD, like the council, has some problem with the costs involved about clearing up the mess and putting in the firebreak, but I'm sure both of us can find some budget between us.

“We also need to look at when the grass on the ranges should be cut. If we know these fires are starting in school holidays, then perhaps the MoD should be cutting the grass at the beginning of them and also halfway through.”

An MoD spokesman said he welcomed the opportunity to work with the council, but stressed the dry summer had exacerbated the risk of fire.

“We will do what we can, but people, especially the younger ones, need to be educated about what they do,” he added.

Anyone with information about the fires on the ranges should contact MoD Police on 01206 782917.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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