A SCHEME to upgrade an existing shooting range into a state-of-the-art Olympic facility has divided opinion in a rural village.
At Fletching Parish Council’s Monday meeting, members voted against the plan to build an Olympic skeet and trap shooting facility at Northall Farm.
They were concerned that the scheme flew in the face of development restraints in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but supporters felt the potential benefits to the village outweighed any disadvantage.
The existing Northall Clay Pigeon Club is home to shooting star Charlotte Kerwood, 24 who won a Commonwealth Gold Medal in 2002 and represented Great Britain in the Beijing Olympics.
Upgrading facilities at the Club would mean she no longer has to travel long distances to practice for next year’s London games.
Documents seen by councillors show a modern shooting ground sunk below ground level with an earth bund to muffle sound. The ground would be a ‘centre of excellence,’ be equipped for disabled shooters and improve the habitat for wildlife.
The Club was started 23 years ago, has 150 members, three full-time staff and stages shoots twice a week. The proposal seeks consent for Charlotte to shoot for two hours only at weekends. Supporting the scheme is an 83-signature petition, two local pubs, businesses and the village shop.
Parish councillor Barry Dickens said: “There’s a wealth of shooting talent in Sussex and this could put our community on the map with minimal disturbance to residents.”
Charlotte’s father, club owner Dan Kerwood said: “The shooting ground’s been here since 1986. We open two days a week and the new application seeks extra two-hour slots on days we’re not open, solely for Charlotte to practice. At present Charlotte has to travel to Dorchester or overseas. I believe this could reflect enormous credit on the area.”
Objectors made the point they fear ‘personal use consent’ cannot be controlled, once given. The final decision will be made by Wealden District Council some time in April.