The band of brothers driving others wild

BURY residents who claim their peaceful way of life is being ruined by urban assault war-gamers have started their own battle with the company behind the activities at RAF Upwood. The residents told The Hunts Post that groups of up to 100 people run rio

BURY residents who claim their peaceful way of life is being ruined by urban assault war-gamers have started their own battle with the company behind the activities at RAF Upwood.

The residents told The Hunts Post that groups of up to 100 people "run riot" at the site while firing pellet guns and cursing during the mock battles.

One resident said: "Gunshots are not a nice noise to hear and the smell that comes from the explosions of the grenades is just horrible. This should not be happening near to our homes."

In a bid to broker a truce, a public meeting - attended by more than 20 protesters - was arranged with representatives from the game organisers, Free Fire Zone Ltd and environmental health officers, at Bury Village Hall last Thursday.

The heated discussion also saw some residents turn on Adrian Sail, from Strawsons Property, who chaired the meeting. He rents the land in question to Free Fire Zone.

John Dean, from Free Fire Zone, told the meeting that although he had been operating for a whole year, he had not received any objections. He added: "We would really like to continue on the site as we have based our living on it. Environmental Health said we are not creating a noise nuisance and we are not breaking the law."

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His statement found little agreement with the protesters.

Elaine Lewis, who lives in Bury Close, claimed the noise is so bad she has had to sedate her dogs to prevent them from becoming distressed

"My dogs get stressed by the noise of the gun shots," she said. "I paid good money to sit in my garden with my dogs and I can't do that any more. It's like having a battlefield on your doorstep.

"In my opinion there is no compromise, we just don't want them here."

Another woman said she was nearly thrown into the path of oncoming traffic after her horse bolted when it heard the noise of gun shots. Anne Palmer said: "I saw masked men running at me and my horse bolted. I was lucky not to be hit by a car."

Frank Bottomley, also from Free Fire Zone, apologised for what had happened to the woman and said: "We are not arrogant or ignorant people and on some occasions we have walked around to gauge the noise. We are trying to make you all happy."

He added that the company was willing to negotiate on some issues to please residents: "We are prepared to change things to make your life better. We have already stopped using smoke and we have made efforts to reduce the noise of the grenades."

As a goodwill gesture the company said it would also not have games on Easter Sunday.

Bury, Warboys and Wistow parish councillor and Huntingdonshire district councillor Peter Bucknell pointed out to residents that, as RAF Upwood is due to be developed in two years time, the games were never going to be "a permanent thing on the site."

It was agreed at the meeting that games would be stopped on a Sunday and switched to Saturday, noise from grenades would be cut, and a fence or wall would be erected to obscure views of the site.

Background to the debate

- The urban assault war games which take place at the disused RAF Upwood base include what have been described as "bunker assaults, search and destroy missions and downed pilot recoveries".

- Free Fire Zone Ltd had been able to stage sessions without needing planning permission for a whole year. But when it decided to step up the games to every other Sunday, and run a corporate event during the week, the move required planning permission.

- Planning permission was refused in November on the grounds that it would result in an "unacceptable disturbance and loss of amenity to nearby residents".

- The company has now lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State to continue its activities at RAF Upwood. A decision is due in 11 months.

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