Bomb find exposes base closure fears

AN unexploded shell found on the Northumberland coast at the weekend sparked fears that the public could be put at risk if a specialist bomb disposal base is closed.

Berwick Coastguard was called to investigate at 8pm on Sunday after a member of the public found a suspicious device at Goswick Sands near Holy Island.

Coastguards cordoned off the area and the police and the bomb disposal team from Faslane, near Glasgow, were contacted. The shell was detonated at 8am on Monday.

But it comes at a time when the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is said to be investigating closing the base at Goswick Sands, from which a team searches for unexploded ordnance.

Sir Alan Beith MP previously visited the site as part of discussions with MOD chiefs over the base’s prospects and has now submitted a Freedom of Information request to the MOD on proposals to end current operations at Goswick.

He said: “I am concerned about the public safety aspects and that this site is unlike any of the others where the Ministry of Defence is considering withdrawing, because there are vast amounts of ordinance buried at Goswick and the sea churns up new material every day.

“I believe it is much better to have daily monitoring of the site, even on a smaller scale, rather than relying on the public reporting each bit of metal that comes up in the sand. We are likely to get a lot of unnecessary calls bringing bomb disposal teams from many miles away because we would not have the expertise of the civilian staff at hand.”

Michael Stewart, a civilian explosive ordnance driver at Goswick Sands, warned that this will happen ‘more and more’ if the base is closed, adding that a similar incident occurred on the afternoon of Friday, April 1.

“Normally we get quietly on with our business but with the proposed closure it’s time to make ourselves known,” he said.

Humber Coastguard has since warned the public to be aware of old World War unexploded ordnance, which may be washed up or exposed on shorelines along the North East coast.

The Coastguard should be contacted immediately if anything suspicious is discovered.

Drew Mahood, watch manager at Humber Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, said: “If you find an object on the beach which you are not sure about, do not touch it.

“Make a mental note of where it is or mark the position if safe to do so.

“If you can, take notes of what it looks like and contact the Coastguard on 999 immediately.

“Do not touch, move or even lift the object.”