RAF accused over live bombs in the sands

One of the postcards.
One of the postcards.

MILITARY top brass have been accused of planning to leave live bombs hidden in the sands of a Northumberland beach to save money, while spending millions on clearing explosives in Afghanistan.

Postcards have been circulated in an area between Holy Island and Bamburgh, urging people to contact MP Sir Alan Beith and the local press about the Royal Air Force’s proposal to pull out of Goswick Sands, which was used as an air weapons range during the Second World War.

They carry the message: “Why clear Afghanistan and leave unexploded bombs in Northumberland? Over 2,000 live items removed, many still remain on public beach. Do you feel safe? Take action now.”

A small team of experts, made up of civilian and service personnel, is currently based on-site to deal with any munitions which are found on the beach, which is a popular destination for tourists, walkers and horseriders.

In the last two years alone, advances in detection technology has led to 28,500lbs – or nearly 13 tonnes – of small arms and explosives being discovered beneath the sands.

Back in March, the team detonated three 500lb bombs and one 300lb bomb which were uncovered in a single week.

Sir Alan has now demanded that the RAF holds a public meeting to explain the proposed changes to local residents and businesses, and to hear their concerns, before any final decision is taken.

“Because of the strong tides around Holy Island, the sands move a great deal and there are frequently items of debris being found,” he said.

“Clearance needs to be an ongoing task with the team on hand to identify metal objects when these are found in the sands.

“I have had several discussions and meetings with the Minister and have told him that I am extremely concerned about the proposals. As these plans have been developed, the risk assessment has been changed several times.

“The risk in the heavy munitions from horse-riding and bait-digging, which are frequent activities on the sands, have been downgraded from a rating of 12 to three and the risk from treasure hunters and ‘persons with malign intent’ has been downgraded from 16 to nine, but no evidence has been provided to back up these changes.

“The team based at Goswick Sands continues to monitor the sands and is a reassuring presence for residents and visitors alike, and any change to the current system needs to be based on keeping the sands safe.

“If the RAF is determined to change the system then they need to explain to local residents and businesses how they have decided the new system will offer the same or better levels of safety than we have at present, before any final decision is taken.”