Raver fears over military training area's new bridge

Residents can expect to hear firing and see aircraft over Stanford Training Area near Thetford and a

Military units are being moved to the East of England, causing an increased demand on access to the Stanford training area in Norfolk. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Plans for a new bridge at a Norfolk military training area have been approved by councillors, amid concerns the structure might encourage illegal raves by helping people get on the site. 

The new 40-tonne crossing over the River Wissey, in the Stanford training area, at Hilborough, near Swaffham, will also include an improved track route, fencing, gates, cattle grids and signage either side of the bridge.

The permission was granted at a meeting of Breckland Council’s planning committee on Tuesday June 7.

But fears were sparked among some members about the bridge worsening the area’s existing problems with illegal raves and flooding. 

Breckland Council has voted to extend the Breckland Bridge Partnership. Picture: Archant

The project was approved at a meeting of Breckland Council's planning committee on Tuesday June 7. - Credit: IAN BURT

Fabian Eagle, the local district councillor, said: “At one recent rave, cars were abandoned along the A1065 in Hilborough village, and there were people walking through residents’ gardens and stumbling along the A1065 and other roads."

Mr Eagle, a Conservative, added: “It does seem ironic that an area that was created to help defend our homes - and has probably helped Ukrainians defend theirs - that these works could allow homes to be invaded by water, and disrupted by illegal activities.” 

Norfolk poultry auctioneer Fabian Eagle has been helping a Ukrainian pigeon-keeper to re-home his bi

Conservative district councillor for Ashill ward, Fabian Eagle - Credit: Swaffham Town Council

He suggested that the committee pause their decision-making so that a visit to the site can be organised first. 

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Hilborough parish councillor Henry Sands joined him in his concerns, saying: “That river, as it is, has [proved] quite a good buffer in preventing illegal activity getting over there. I think building a bridge is just going to make it far easier. 

“With the best will in the world, it doesn’t matter how big the gate is, people will cross the bridge very easily.

“I just don’t believe the benefits of this project outweigh the environmental and social costs that it’s going to bring.”

Upper Wensum in Norfolk

The River Wissey - Credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust

A planning officer had explained at the start of the meeting that the bridge was needed because additional military units are being relocated to the East of England - leading to an increased demand for access to training land - and the development would therefore “have economic and national security benefits”.

The Environment Agency raised no objections to the proposal, saying that they were satisfied with the provided modelling for the project. 

The scheme was approved with six votes in favour and two against.