Where Are The Gates?

Back in April this year our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena, wrote a letter to a few constituents. This was in a response to complaints regarding a severe lack of access at Long Valley, and the fact DIO had not complied with the ministerial directive to keep the gates unlocked when not in use.

Two statements in the letter caught our eye:

I have been told that it is the MoD’s intention to include foot gates at various access points and work has already been commissioned to address this issue…

…officials have been directed to make sure the existing gates are open for public access to Long Valley when it is not in use for military training.

You can read a copy of the letter for yourself here:

Its now December and its painfully apparent DIO South East staff have not complied with either.

There are no new gates.

The area remains closed when not in use.

If you wish to know more details then please read on. Equally, if you feel its about time the gates were installed and open when not in use then do please take a moment to write to your MP and ask two questions:

  • Where are the promised additional gates?
  • Why do the gates at Long Valley remain locked when its not in use?

As ever, the easiest way to contact your MP is to use the Write to Them website.

No Gates

It’s painfully obvious to anyone using Long Valley the current number and location of gates is inadequate. This map shows us why:

The red area is the now-fenced part of Long Valley. The green dots represent existing gates and the red crosses indicate where new gates are required. The red lines show the routes required between existing gates.

With no gates to the north and just one gate serving the west access here requires climbing the fence or, as indicated by damage, cutting a hole in the wire. The southern side has just two gates with the fence blocking routes in use for decades.

TAG have pressed for more gates, in part to reduce the ongoing spend of public money maintaining the fence as casual access is reasserted but mainly to help those less able access the area for recreation.

Regrettably the proposals have been been disregarded by DIO with a simple “too close to dangerous roads” statement. This claim overlooks the fact all gates are near a road and all locations are set back from the kerb…We are deep into the territory of where policy and decision making is driven by ego rather than evidence, something that fails to meet the standards in public life.

How do we know DIO have no intention to install more gates? Back in July we raised an FOI asking to see works orders for gate installation.

It was little surprise to find there was none.

But hang on, didn’t the MP’s letter say work had already started?

Either politicians are simply telling us something we want to hear hoping we will go away and forget about the gates…or DIO have failed to act. With a track record of failing to deliver we err on the side of DIO inaction.

Locked Gates

Back in July 2020 the Minister for Defence Procurement wrote a letter that contained the following statement:

I can assure you that officials have been directed to ensure the existing gates are open for public access to Long Valley when it is not in use for military training.

We now know DIO staff have ignored the minister and failed to comply with this directive.

The gates have remained locked for extended periods when there is no training underway. We can be very confident of this as its based on DIO’s own booking on and off records. Every formal user of the lands must do this when they arrive and leave. Here’s the analysis of the Long Valley records from September 2020 to February 2021:

MonthHours ClosedHours Used
September50421.7
October4987.6
November34625.1
December2662.2
January28125.9
February32034.3
Total2215116.8
Booking on/off recorded duration vs published closure dates & times taken from DIO’s own records

The number of hours used seems incredibly low, but this is very much backed up by casual observation of what is – or is not – going on in Long Valley.

A puddle with clear water. No one has driven through this for days, if not weeks.

Photographs such as the above provide excellent evidence of the current activity at Long Valley. TAG are maintaining an audit and with the news troop numbers set to fall, or head off to Germany, we are not expecting a rise in use anytime soon. If you can contribute with photos and observations then do please get in touch.

MTB tracks, walkers and dog paw prints show who is using Long Valley and none are military training, yet the gates remain locked.

We are unable to analyse the booking on/off records beyond February. DIO realised what TAG were up to and subsequent FIO have not yielded any meaningful information. We now firmly believe DIO staff are deliberately concealing the truth about just how little Long Valley is used.

The £250,000 spend of public money on the fence really isn’t looking good value, is it?

DIO staff – specifically those tasked with public access – have a lot to answer for here and action to restore access is well overdue.

Verification and Trust

Some DIO staff include a guiding principles statement of “My Word is my Bond; Trust but Verify” in their email signature. Having consistently failed to verify TAG struggle to trust what DIO say. This applies to both the corporate and individual levels and the bond value of the words is more rather than less likely to be graded a junk asset and worthless.

Politicians need to get a grip and start actively managing DIO and ensure their instructions and commitments are complied with. Gates must remain unlocked when not in use and the additional access points installed as a priority.

Locked gates and no training represents lost opportunity we can never get back. Time has passed and the space remained inaccessible and the status quo must not continue.

Those responsible for access must be held accountable for the loss of recreational opportunity, and to ensure the Access part of the public office held is recognised with deeds and actions, and without further delay.

One thought on “Where Are The Gates?

  1. Pingback: Looking back…Looking forward | Trail Action Group

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