ARMED police response officers are to stage a live firing exercise for councillors in a bid to persuade them to approve a controversial planning application for a shooting range in Holcombe Rogus, near Wellington.

The demonstration will take place on September 5 in Pondground Quarry, a mile to the east of the village, which Devon and Cornwall Police (DCP) has used as a firing range since 1978.

Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) planning officer Adrian Devereaux said the DCP application would then go to a committee meeting on September 13 to be determined by councillors.

The controversy has dragged on for 16 months with more than 100 letters of objection to the police plans being received by MDDC.

Villagers and parish councillors in Holcombe Rogus and nearby Stawley have opposed the plans because of noise nuisance concerns and worries about the impact on wildlife.

They were concerned that the plans would see more shooting than ever take place almost year-round.

DCP said it wanted to be able to use the quarry on 70 days a year, with no firing during the Christmas fortnight and in the first three weeks of August.

There would be a maximum of two-and-a-half days’ shooting in any one week and only on a Tuesday and Wednesday and a half-day on a Thursday.

Shooting would be between 9 am and 5 pm on each full day, and would finish at 1 pm on Thursdays.

Previous planning permission for DCP to use the quarry’s two live firing ranges was only ever temporary and was renewed five times up to 2014, when police forgot to apply to renew the consent.

After DCP discovered last year it had been using the site without planning permission for seven years it re-applied to MDDC, sparking the current controversy.

Newly-elected MDDC Liberal Democrat Cllr Lance Kennedy has supported the police application and disputed claims that wildlife would be affected after 45 years of live firing in the quarry.

Cllr Kennedy, a former police armed response officer, said objections by the Grand Western Canal joint advisory committee were made before he and other Lib Dem councillors were elected and ‘may not necessarily reflect the views of current members’.

He said: “As a former police firearms officer for 16 years I cannot stress the importance of what is limited training on the ranges in question, causing noise for a few minutes in the hour.

“I would ask the committee to fully support this integral part of the training of police officers whom we ask to take the lead in the most dangerous situations to protect all members of the community.”

Cllr Kennedy said if the planning committee was inclined to refuse the plans then it should also have a blanket ban on the regular use of gas-powered bird scaring devices.

He said but for an oversight, the committee would be dealing with a long standing renewal of the firing range use.