Firearms Training Facility at Black Rock Quarry, Weston-in-Gordano
South West Collaboration Team Police Authority
Outline planning application for an indoor regional firearms training facility including a 50 m firing range (2 no. 8 lane ranges), tactics house with ancillary facilities, together with associated ground level alterations, landscaping, parking and alterations to existing vehicular access off Valley Road, with all matters reserved for future approval except access and layout.
North Somerset Council has resolved to grant outline planning consent for an indoor regional Firearms Training Facility including a 50 m firing range (2 no. 8 lane ranges), tactics house with ancillary facilities, together with associated ground level alterations, landscaping, and parking, at a former quarry in Weston-in-Gordano, North Somerst.
The planning application was submitted on 22nd March 2010 by CSJ Planning Consultants Ltd on behalf of the South West Collaboration Team, which comprises Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Police Authority, Wiltshire Police and Gloucestershire Police. Technical advice was provided by Aecom and the plans were produced by Capra Architects.
The proposal forms part of a wider accommodation improvement strategy being carried out by Avon and Somerset Constabulary, which includes custody suites and operation bases in Bridgwater, and North and East Bristol. Funding has been approved by the Home Office as part of a Private Finance Initiative.
The planning application followed pre-application discussions with North Somerset Council and a public consultation, held locally.
The site was last used for the importation of inert materials to provide a growing platform for Christmas trees. The site is sensitively located in the Green Belt, outside a defined settlement boundary; within a landscape character area; and within close proximity to SSSI's. The site has high ecological value, with nesting Peregrine Falcons, and foraging bats.
A detailed justification setting out Very Special Circumstances for the proposed development was provided, due to the location of the site within the Green Belt, and the Council concluded that the case was "extensive" and "robust".
The Council accepted that the proposal provided the opportunity to improve the visual appearance of the site and consultation responses stated that the proposal represented a good of use of the site.
The presence of the Peregrine Falcons heavily influenced the design of the scheme. The building had to be positioned at the front half of the site; screened by landscaped mounds created by the existing fill material; and fully sound-proofed, in order to reduce the potential for disturbance. The scheme was also designed on the basis that there were bat roosts within the site and quarry walls. Ecological mitigation strategies formed part of the application and these were endorsed by the Council; Natural England; and the local Peregrine Watch Group.
Invitations for tender will take place in June as part of the PFI process and the detailed proposal will be developed by the successful bidder and their chosen team. The Reserved Matters application is likely to be submitted at the end of the year and will follow further consultations with the Council, key stakeholders, and members of the public.
Rebecca Morgan, Principal Planner at CSJ, said "We are really pleased that the Council has agreed that there are very special circumstances that justify the proposed development in the Green Belt. The proposal will provide a state of the art, regional training facility, which is a major coup for the area."
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