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Stowmarket and District Rifle Club told to relocate by Ministry of Defence

PUBLISHED: 09:49 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 18 April 2019

Stowmarket and District Rifle Club chairman Keith Cooper with a .22 rifle. Pictures: KEITH COOPER

Stowmarket and District Rifle Club chairman Keith Cooper with a .22 rifle. Pictures: KEITH COOPER

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An historic Suffolk shooting club is being forced to leave its "spiritual" home after being given its marching orders by the Ministry of Defence.

Stowmarket and District Rifle Club has been active since the end of World War Two, following the disbandment of the 7th Batallion Suffolk Home Guard. Pictures: KEITH COOPERStowmarket and District Rifle Club has been active since the end of World War Two, following the disbandment of the 7th Batallion Suffolk Home Guard. Pictures: KEITH COOPER

Stowmarket and District Rifle Club, which dates back to the end of the Second World War, was formed following the disbandment of the 7th Battalion Suffolk Home Guard.

It currently meets every Tuesday evening at the cadet centre in Finnborough Road, although it was shocked to receive a letter from the MoD giving it six weeks notice to relocate by May 9.

The letter said: “The range will soon be fitted with an enhanced security system that is MoD compliant for the storage of cadet weapons, as such no other access will be permitted to any other users. This is regrettable given the longevity of your club at this site.”

It also recommended that the club relocated to ranges in Sudbury or Hadleigh.

The cadet base in Finnborough Road, Stowmarket, has been the home of the club for more than 70 years. Picture: GOOGLE MAPSThe cadet base in Finnborough Road, Stowmarket, has been the home of the club for more than 70 years. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Club chairman Keith Cooper, who has been involved with the club since 1987, said: “We were completely shocked.

“We are more than 70 years old and have strong roots in the area, it is a terrible shame.

“We never expected this to happen - they dropped our club secretary a message saying we need to leave, and now we're going to be homeless.

“This is our spiritual home, we have spent almost our entire life here at the base.

“Obviously finding a new home for us will be difficult as it is hard to find a place to shoot in the area, our members will probably have to travel up to 25 miles to our new home, wherever that will be.”

Mr Cooper also confirmed the close-knit 25 member club will not disband and he is hopeful they will find a new home.

He added: “Rifle shooting is a very diverse sport - it lends itself to folks of all ages and abilities.”

East Anglia Resere Forces and Cadets Association, which operate the building, were unavailable for further comment.

Other clubs in the region have suffered similar difficulties, with Felixstowe Rifle Club having faced threats of closure for both proposed superstore and housing plans in 2013 and 2016 respectively.

Suffolk has a strong history in the sport, with Malcolm Cooper, who trained at the Royal Hospital School, taking home a gold medal in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.

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