Watch: Mother confronts armed police to complain about firing range
A mother was forced into confronting armed police on a firing range next to her home that did not have planning permission.
Corin Hancock, 34, filmed herself walking on to the police gun range, located at a quarry beside her home in Holcombe Rogus, Devon, to illustrate how easy it was to access.
Once there, she approached armed police officers to tell them they did not have permission to use the site for shooting.
Her protest eventually led to officers packing up for the day.
Devon and Cornwall Police later admitted they have been using the quarry for firing since 2014 without a permit.
Hancock and her husband, Rob Chislett, 48, say their children are afraid to go outside because police had been firing their weapons nearby up to four times a week.
And they say the types of gunfire have got steadily worse in recent years, changing from occasional pistol shots to heavy machine gun-type rounds.
In the video taken from their garden, the sound of gunfire from the nearby quarry can be heard clearly.
Since Hancock confronted officers last month, Devon and Cornwall Police have submitted a new planning application to fire weapons all day, five days a week.
In the application, the force admitted they had been using the site since 2014 without a permit, which they blamed on "reasons unknown".
But a separate application to build on the site showed that Mid Devon District Council reminded them to apply that year.
The new planning application also requested permission to fire on weekends and use higher calibre weapons than previously.
Chislett said the shooting site has been used by police for 40 years, but that gunfire has increased since the coronavirus pandemic.
"It honestly feels like we live in a war zone," he said.
"It's so loud that my little boy is constantly complaining, saying he doesn't want to go outside, it's just too frightening.
"For us it's been horrendous, especially over the last couple of years. The frequency and volume of the weapons they are testing there is absurd.
"It's gone from being used up to maybe a dozen times a year with relatively small arms fire to four times a week with high-velocity rifles."
He said the facility is also poorly secured, saying children could easily enter via a "poorly maintained" wooden fence.
"The security on the site is limited," he said. "The wooden fences that are there are basically just ones put up by local farmers to stop their livestock wandering in.
"There is a string of barbed wire around it too, but there are easy pathways in and out of the site that are used by kids and animals to get in and use the site for activities.
"They put up the odd red flag when they start firing and a sign at the gate, but other than that you could absolutely just wander onto the site, there's nothing to stop you."
After suspending their use of the quarry for a week, Devon and Cornwall Police issued their application for permission to use the facility on 23 May.
In the application, the force stated: "For reasons unknown to both parties, neither Devon and Cornwall Police or Mid Devon District Council was aware that the temporary consent had lapsed some years ago.
"This is, possibly, due to a change in personnel over the years. We recognise our part in the failure to record the lapse in the planning consent and confirm that this was purely by accident.
"It was certainly not by design or anybody’s intention for the end of the temporary consent to go unnoticed. The end of the temporary consent was brought to our attention last year, in 2021."
Chislett said: "I think the most shocking part really is not just the fact that the police broke the rules, it's just that they are ignoring them still.
"It feels like the police are just running roughshod over us, it just feels like another example of the police having their own set of rules - which is infuriating."
A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall said: "This site has been used for safe police firearms training since the 1970s.
"Unfortunately, the fact that planning permission for this essential activity had lapsed was missed, we believe due to a change of personnel.
“As soon as this error came to light our building and estates team commenced discussions with Mid Devon District Council.
“An application has now been submitted which will enable local residents’ views to be taken into consideration and comments to be submitted.”
But residents say they intend to challenge the police's use of the facility through protests and legal action.