Police training facility described as ‘critical to national security’ gets green light
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
A police firearms training facility which is described as “critical to national security” has been approved by the two local authorities which the site straddles.
The application for the use of land for a police tactics training facility at Pencoed Technology Park, on the border between Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend has been approved by RCT’s planning committee.
Separate planning applications were submitted to each authority with approval being needed from both. Bridgend had already approved it and now RCT’s planning committee did the same last week.
The plans will see the change of use of a series of open fields currently used for grazing to an external police tactics training area, including some associated development.
The applicant, the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, has said that the proposed tactics facility is of both regional and national importance, being critical to national security as it will ensure that all firearms officers which attend are properly trained in tactics and firearms for the variety of incidents that may arise.
While the facility would be used mainly by South Wales Police, Dyfed Powys Police and Gwent Police allowing officers of these forces to train locally, it would also be available for use by any other constabulary from across the UK as necessary.
There are currently only six existing facilities of this nature across the UK and this development would provide a much needed addition, the planning report said.
External training area
The external training area within RCT would be used in association with an indoor police tactics training centre that is proposed at the adjacent open fields within Bridgend and as well as the main facility, the Bridgend area of the wider development site would also include most of the development’s associated infrastructure such as access, parking and other buildings.
The planning report to RCT planning committee said there is a limited amount of physical development proposed within RCT with no permanent buildings or structures proposed within the RCT site and the fields would only be used for outdoor training exercises in association with the adjacent main indoor facility within Bridgend, enabling officers to practice the skills learnt on tactical training equipment and outdoor areas.
The report said all aspects of training are done throughout the year and in all
weather conditions to replicate all potential operational deployments so outdoor lighting would be needed but would only be used during training operations at a specific training area.
No live ammunition would be used at the outdoor training area within RCT and live ammunition would only ever be used within one of the dedicated internal live fire ranges at the indoor facility within the Bridgend area of the site. The wider development could not go ahead unless both the Bridgend and RCT applications were approved.
The report said that some limited out of hours opening may be necessary if emergencies arise that require urgent tactic training before officers are deployed (instances where there is a major threat to life) but that this would likely be less than six times a year based on previous events and that both councils would be advised of any event like this within 72 hours of it occurring for monitoring purposes.
Use of firearms
There were five objections to the plans which raised concerns including the general use of firearms in close proximity of residential properties, significant noise disturbance to the nearest residential properties and concern over the noise assessments carried out.
In recommending approval, officers said in their planning report: “While greenfield in nature and outside of settlement limits, the application site lies within the employment land bank for Pencoed Technology Park and has a long history of planning permissions for employment use, benefiting from an extant outline consent.
“Furthermore, the proposed tactics facility is of both regional and national importance, being critical to national security. It will ensure that all firearms officers which attend are properly trained in tactics and firearms for the variety of incidents that may arise, and can do so within the local area generating economic growth and a number of employment opportunities.
“The principle of development is therefore considered acceptable.It is accepted the proposed use will inevitably result in a degree of impact to the amenity standards currently enjoyed by occupiers of the closest neighbouring properties, but, on balance, it is not considered any potential impact would be significant enough to warrant refusal of the application, subject to appropriate conditions/mitigation.
“Additionally, while the works would result in an alteration to the current character and appearance of the greenfield site, the development would be suitably contained from the open countryside to the north/east and would form an appropriate rounding off of the industrial estate in this location.
“It is also considered the impact of the scheme upon ecology and land drainage can be properly mitigated.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.