Safety measures for unexploded bombs

SAFEGUARDS to protect people using a north Northumberland beach from unexploded bombs beneath its sands will be outlined by RAF top brass at a public meeting.

Sqn Ldr Michael Haygarth, officer commanding for 5131 (Bomb Disposal) Squadron, will give a presentation at Ancroft Memorial Hall on Thursday, September 22, detailing how munitions concealed at Goswick Sands will be dealt with in future.

The meeting will be chaired by MP Sir Alan Beith, in response to a public outcry over Ministry of Defence proposals to remove its permanent civilian staff from the site, which was used as an air weapons range during the Second World War.

They are the first line of contact for anyone who finds debris which has been brought to the surface of the sands.

While some of it is just junk, other objects include ammunition – some of which is live.

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.

Under the proposed new arrangements, military personnel will conduct periodic sweeps of the sands using a towed array device, which detects metal on and below the surface.

In between sweeps, if someone finds a suspicious object, the bomb disposal team will come over from either Rosyth or Catterick.

But locals fear that the beauty spot, which is a popular destination for tourists, walkers and horseriders, will be left in a potentially dangerous state.

Sir Alan said: “The sands contain very large amounts of material left over from their use as a practice range during and after the Second World War.

“Much of this is harmless, but large bombs and smaller live munitions are regularly found.

“At present, the civilian staff monitor on a daily basis and call in disposal teams to deal with any live material.

“The RAF believe they can provide a safe alternative with periodic sweeps of the area, initially on a quarterly basis.

“I’ve had meetings with the RAF and the Minister about the plans and I’ve insisted that there must be an explanation to the public, at which questions can be raised.

“I hope anyone who has questions or concerns, or is interested, will come along to the meeting.”

Sqn Ldr Haygarth will outline what safeguards are in place to ensure public safety on the sands, while there will also be a full question-and-answer session after the presentation.

The meeting has also been timed to coincide with safe crossing times to and from Holy Island, so residents from the island can attend.

The memorial hall opens at 6.30pm and the meeting starts at 7pm.