REMOVING unexploded bombs from Southend foreshore has cost more than £20,000 in expenses over the past five years, the Echo can reveal.

The bomb squad has been called out to remove devices 41 times since 2008, with each call-out costing an average of £520.

The figures were obtained by the Echo in a Freedom of Information request.

Paul Gilson, joint chairman of Leigh and Southend Fishermen’s Association, has caught 14 mines and shells in his fishing net over his career.

The 59-year-old said: “Some of the ordnance found is live. You can’t take a chance with safety.

“The most likely thing that would happen is a youngster could find one.

You can just imagine a small shell being taken into school. If it’s preventable, you have to do it.”

The Royal Navy Ordnance Disposal Team has been called out to 279 items of ordnance around Southend since 2008, ranging from anti-aircraft shells to an anti-submarine warfare mortar.

The Navy, which is responsible for removing any ordnance found below the high water mark, also revealed a third of items recovered were explosive.

It says the public risk is low, but concedes bombs are still being uncovered on a regular basis – costing the military time and money.

Each time officers are sent out, the Navy has to fund transport, food and accommodation on top of the usual cost of equipment and manpower.

A Navy spokesman said: “On the basis of examination of the call-outs over the course of 2012, there was an approximate cost for travel and subsistence per call of £520.

“This was based on four personnel staying in overnight accommodation and two days subsistence and fuel.

“This would not include costs for manpower, equipment or stores used, or wider infra-structure costs associated with procurement, generation and retention of this specific explosive ordnance disposal capability.”

The Navy team has been called to Southend foreshore 41 times since 2008, finding up to 42 items each time.

It has found 37 pieces of ordnance so far this year and 75 last year, including 27 high explosive projectiles or rounds.

Shells are usually uncovered by bait diggers, but are also revealed by changes to the environment.

Navy spokesman Simon Smith said: “Many parts of the South East were subject to heavy bombing in WW2, and today we continue to be tasked with a large array and quantity of ordnance that would otherwise present a significant danger to the public and critical national infrastructure, both on the foreshore and at sea, and on occasion, inland.”