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Battle over war games wood

A businessman running combat games has clashed with councillors over an application to continue this use of the Eversley woodland

The woodland has been used for a variety of combat games

A fierce battle has broken out over the use of woodland for war games.

A war of words has ensued after Joshua Smith applied for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) to carry on using land at Warren Heath in Eversley for combat games.

Mr Smith said the site has hosted war games and similar events since 1990 but Eversley Parish Council believes his application is ‘wanting on many grounds’ and wants it thrown out.

Mr Smith said the site has a ‘huge’ range of uses and has always supported shops and pubs in the local area due to the many people who travel and camp overnight.

“The loss of this facility would be a huge shame and would also ruin a number of small businesses that operate on it,” he warned.

Mr Smith said the site was originally used in November 1990 by the Wacky Wargames Company and has been used by a number of operators over the years, including Skirmish Paintball and Ambush Adventures.

A director of Gunman Airsoft, Mr Smith said he was approached to run the site in 2010.

“We took over in 2011 and the site has been operating every weekend since then,” he added.

Mr Smith said he assumed there was already a certificate for its use when he took over the site.

“All I want to do is legitimise a business that has been there since 1990,” he added. “There’s not been a single problem since 1990 but as soon as I put in an application there’s suddenly a problem. It’s all a bit sad really and I’m very disappointed to be honest.”

He said the site is currently used for a number of activities, including Airsoft and laser war games, and by a number of different groups, including a Wild West role playing group and a Second World War re-enactment group.

“We also have many more bookings for 2014, which are on hold until the certificate is granted,” he added.

Mr Smith, 41, lives in Peterborough and has been running events since 1993. He visits the Eversley site two or three times a week.

“Since taking over the site, we have re-built and repaired old structures and have an ongoing commitment to get rid of the hundreds of tyres strewn all over the site,” he said.

But the parish council said statements in Mr Smith’s application contained ‘false and misleading’ information by claiming that there was no planning history for the site.

It says there was an application for a change of use of a small part of Site A to a ‘war games venue’ which was refused in March 2002 and there have also been three applications for gravel extraction from part of the site, which resulted in it being unavailable for any use for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.

Hart District Council aims to make a decision on the application by April 28.

 

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