NOISE from munitions testing at Shoebury Ranges is to be investigated in a new survey ordered by the Ministry of Defence.
It follows complaints by some people in Kent and north Essex who claim the vibrations caused by explosions are undermining the foundations of their properties.
Qinetiq, operator and manager of the MoD site, has hired a company to assess the effect of activity on the range once and for all.
Munitions and equipment are tested and evaluated on the range to ensure weapon systems are safe and function as intended.
In order to do this, equipment and munitions are fired, shaken, rattled, dropped, heated and frozen.
Expired or stressed ammunition is also disposed of on site and troops are trained in bomb disposal, resulting in explosions that can be heard all around the Thames Estuary.
The potential impact of these explosions will be assessed by up to ten sound and vibration monitors placed in carefully chosen locations all around the estuary.
The last test of this kind was carried out ten years ago and showed no evidence of potential damage, but concerns have remained.
Neil Williams, clerk to the parish council in St Osyth, along the Essex coast near Clacton, said the effect of explosions in Shoebury is worse for them than those nearby.
He said: “I can only describe the vibrations from the explosions as being absolutely horrendous at times.
“The noise and vibrations have a real impact on people’s lives and it certainly bothers people here.
“While the noise may be within the limit near to where it originates in Shoebury, when the blast crosses the open water and along the coast it can be multiplied up to four times.
“It gets so bad, at times you can quite literally see the water shake in your glass, it is that strong.
“It is something we have been in contact with our MP about for some considerable length of time.
“I haven’t witnessed any damage being caused, but I have been told some properties have got cracks as a result of the explosions and others have had windows smashed and cracked.”
Shoebury Independent councillor Mike Assenheim said: “I have had no complaints about the noise or vibrations from the range. Everybody who lives here and has done for any length of time is quite used to it.
“I live quite close to the range and have had no damage done, no windows broken.
“I used to hear more things as a kid when I lived in Westcliff.”
Leigh Town Council also reported no complaints made about noise, suggesting it is communities further away that suffer more from the explosions.
The new study, to be carried out by Southdowns, specialist consultants in acoustics, noise and vibration, is set to start next spring and last six months.
The monitoring stations will be placed at ten locations around the Estuary which have been chosen after analysis of existing data showing areas most affected by the explosions.
Findings from the study will be made public as soon as possible after its completion and the MoD will be responsible for any subsequent action should it be found that properties are being damaged.
A spokesman for the MoD, said: “There has been longstanding concern among communities in the Kent and Essex areas over noise and vibration generated at the Shoeburyness Range.
“As a result of the proactive noise forecasting and management techniques used at the range, the number of public complaints has fallen markedly in recent years and there is still no reason to suggest the range is responsible for even cosmetic property damage.
“However, both the MoD and QinetiQ, which operates the range on our behalf, wish to be good neighbours and on the basis that more than 10 years have passed since the previous Vibrock Study into noise and vibration at Shoeburyness, and that a noise and vibration study was being organised at another UK test and evaluation range, we concluded that it would be prudent to commission a new study.”
Explosions may have increased in recent months due to the increase in ordnance washed up on beaches along the south Essex coast.
The volume of ordnance found on Shoebury’s East Beach, next door to the MoD site, led to the beach being closed for a number of weeks recently while a survey was carried out to assess the public risk.
Bomb disposal teams have regularly been called to carry out controlled explosions of found ordnance, but the MoD said the reasons behind explosions being felt more strongly in one place compared to another is complicated.
PROPOSED MONITORING SITES
- East Mersea
- Herne Bay
- Burnham-on-Crouch or Leysdown-on-Sea