COLCHESTER residents have been blamed by the government for the impending sale of Middlewick Ranges.

The proposed sale of the Colchester beauty spot, which was put on the market by the Ministry of Defence last month, was the subject of a parliamentary debate today.

Defence minister James Cartlidge claimed the actions of Colchester residents have led to the site being wound up as a training facility for the Army, which led to it being earmarked for 1,000 homes in Colchester Council’s local plan.

Gazette: Minister - James CartlidgeMinister - James Cartlidge (Image: Office of James Cartlidge)

He said: “What we have found is that the site is becoming difficult and increasingly impractical to use due to its proximity to residential properties and public footpaths.

“Incursions have been occurring and became a risk to those operating the ranges.

"There were simply too many people from the local community walking across live firing exercises, so much so that we were unable to conduct training safely.”

Mr Cartlidge added the government is “committed to seeing this land used in a way which benefits the local environment and community” but reiterated decisions over the future of the site are the responsibility of the city council and not the defence ministry.

Gazette: Site - Middlewick Ranges in ColchesterSite - Middlewick Ranges in Colchester


Richard Martin, of the Save Middlewick campaign group, disagreed with the minister’s statement.

“I don’t think the people of Colchester are to blame,” he said. “That’s a bad judgement.”

Colchester MP Will Quince spoke passionately about the issue, urging the government and council leaders to take steps to protect the future of the site.

Gazette: Passionate - Colchester MP Will QuincePassionate - Colchester MP Will Quince

He said: “It does seem short-sighted to me for the Ministry of Defence to sell a prime parcel of land which has been a training area for almost 200 years serving an established garrison; a garrison which is likely to grow further.

“Colchester Council consistently and regularly exceeds its annual housing targets, but the impact of such a large housing development has to be considered.

“The infrastructure of any area will inevitably be tested and my constituents are understandably, and I think rightly, worried about the impact this particular development would have on their access to medical care, to schooling, and the impact it would have on the local road network.”