Midlem shooting range given go-ahead to open longer on Sundays despite villagers’ protests

John Thomson, of East Linton, at the Bisley at Braidwood clay pigeon shooting centre near Midlem.
John Thomson, of East Linton, at the Bisley at Braidwood clay pigeon shooting centre near Midlem.

A booming clay pigeon-shooting range setting its sights on longer opening hours has been given the go-ahead despite objections from residents of a nearby village.

The owner of the Braidwood shooting range near Midlem, the Surrey-based Bisley Shooting Group, wants to extend its Sunday shooting hours from 11am until 3pm to 10am until 7pm, bringing it into line with other days.

Its opening hours are controlled by the conditions of planning consent granted 24 years ago, restricting its operating hours on Sundays. 

An application submitted to Scottish Borders Council planners by the range, the biggest in Scotland, reads: “The weekends are the most popular days for the use of the facilities we offer, and it would be a great advantage, and help us improve our service, if we were able to have normal working hours on Sundays in line with the terms for the rest of the week.

“The sporting clay layouts on the grounds are built to national and international competition standards, and we are regularly asked to hold shoots for national selection and international competitions.  

“These competitions are held over the weekend, and it is important to have the full use of the Sunday for these competitions to be able to take place successfully.

“Our regular shooting clients would be most grateful for those extra hours on Sundays, especially during the long summer days. 

“From a business point of view, it would be encouraging for the staff to be able to maximise prime time and help improve turnover.

“We are very lucky to have the shooting area set in high ground but in a bowl with large bunds that provide a very effective noise barrier.  

“We have a very good relationship with our neighbours in Midlem and are not aware of any noise issues that concern them.”

However, 12 objections from the village’s 90 or so residents were lodged with the council’s planning department, with the majority of the concerns cited being about extra noise on Sundays. 

Their protests were overruled by the council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, October 7, however.

Appearing before the committee, Midlem resident Tony Clay, representing the village hall’s committee, said: “It’s been stated that there are effective noise bunds, but no noise monitoring has ever been carried out to measure the effectiveness of these bunds, therefore we can only rely on anecdotal evidence.

“The noise bunds did appear to mitigate the noise in the early days. However, recently there has been a noticeable increase in noise.

“Some shots have now been altered from a dull thud to a loud sharp crack, sometimes accompanied by an echo.

“Although the range has been operated for some time, it has moved on from being a local club shoot to an actively marketed commercial enterprise which continues to expand and produce increasing levels of noise.

“There may be scope for lessening the noise impact by reducing the loading weight of cartridges and ensuring that any limits are enforced.”

Planning officers told the committee that only one valid complaint had been lodged with environmental health officers since planning permission was granted in August 1995.

They recommended approving the application and allowing the extended operating hours for a trial period of nine months.

Councillors were also told that monitoring of the site would only be triggered by complaints received by environmental health officers, so continuous monitoring throughout the trial period would be impossible. 

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said: “This is one of those on-balance type of decisions.

“I’m very sympathetic to the residents because, as they have suggested, Sunday is a day of rest, when people would like to enjoy the peace and quiet, and have reasonable expectation of that, but this is an existing business, and the problems with monitoring have been explained, so I feel it would be unreasonable to refuse the application until there has been a reasonable period where we can monitor the impact of the relaxation of the conditions.

“I will support the officers’ recommendation.”

The committee agreed, barring Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson’s vote against.