Hundreds object to County Down shooting range plan

Image caption, The proposed location for the range is overlooked by a number of homes and just 200m from a playgroup

Some 300 people have objected to plans for an outdoor shooting range in Bangor, County Down.

A local gun club, which already has access to indoor premises, has applied for permission for another site which is close to housing and schools.

The application is for a green field area on the Ballymacormick Road in Bangor, close to Groomsport village.

North Down and Ards Borough Council said the application was currently being assessed.

Some local politicians have expressed concerns at the proposed location of the range, although Jim Shannon, the DUP MP for Strangford, has written a letter in support of the application.

Bangor, Clandeboye and District Rifle and Pistol Club said they were committed to working with planners and the local community.

"The club welcomes hearing all views, good and bad, so they can be incorporated into the planning process to develop the necessary solutions," it said in a statement.

"The club wants to assure the local community they will be a good neighbour at all times, whether the application is successful or not."

'Completely unacceptable'

Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers said he had received 50 letters of objection, on top of nearly 250 which had been sent to the council.

Media caption, Alan Chambers raised concerns the range would be near a nursery

"It obviously has caused a lot of concern in the area and a lot of objections have come in about it," said Mr Chambers.

"I've never seen any planning application attract the number of objections in such a short period of time.

"It's quite obvious it's completely unacceptable in this part of Bangor."

Reasons for complaints included noise from the site, its safety implications and an increase in traffic, said DUP councillor Peter Martin, who had also been contacted by a number of unhappy constituents.

"I'm supportive of shooting as a sport in Northern Ireland, I think if people want to engage in that, that's fine," he said.

"However, I do feel very clearly that the current application and where it's going to be situated is just not the right place, it is at the bottom of a residential road and I do not feel that that is the right position for a target range.

"I'd be saying to the club that they need to think about this and reconsider the location of this proposed range, there are plenty of places where this could be housed."

Heather Patton, who runs nearby Groomsport Playgroup, said she was really worried about the plans.

"The back garden where the children play would be approximately 200 metres from this gun range," she said.

"I also live in the village and would be overlooking the gun range. I have children that play."

Ms Patton said two prospective clients had already pulled their children from the playgroup's waiting list due to concerns about the shooting range.

'Fairly stringent'

Any shooting range of this nature would be heavily regulated, said the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

"A gun club of this type is heavily regulated by the PSNI under article 49 of the Northern Ireland Firearms Order and the Guidance on the Northern Ireland Firearms Controls which is a fairly stringent document," said BASC Northern Ireland Director Tommy Mayne.

"There's quite a few hoops to jump through."

Image caption, The site of the proposed range is close to a number of homes

In a statement, North Down and Ards Borough Council said the application was still under consideration.

"No recommendation will be made by the council's planning department until responses have been received from all of the statutory bodies that have been consulted and the proposal has been fully assessed," it said in a statement.

"This assessment will take into account all material planning considerations [such as traffic impact, impact on the residential amenity of nearby properties and any potential noise impact], including any representations received from third parties."

The BBC was unable to contact the organisation behind the proposed range.