Disposal of military ordinance from area previously used as a firing range

Key locations

Activity largely restricted to Goswick Sands  (North Northumberland)

Frequency of Activity


Potential issues

  • Noise and visual disturbance.
  • Trampling

Features of Marine Protected Areas which might be affected

  • Sand and mud flats
  • Inlets and bays
  • Grey seal
  • Birds (wintering and breeding)

Organisations with relevant management powers or responsibilities


Organisation  Description of powers or responsibilities 
Ministry of Defence 


Responsible for UK defence matters 
Natural England  Statutory nature conservation body for England advising on impacts on protected sites 


Relevant Legislation (England)

There is no specific legal framework for carrying out ordinance disposal and work is undertaken under Ministry of Defence operating procedures.

Details of Current Management (England)

Ordnance is present at Goswick Sands (close to Holy Island) due to the previous use of the area as a firing range. Due to the active nature of the environment (i.e. changing sand levels on the beach either uncovering or covering ordnance buried there) 100% clearance of the site cannot be carried out. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has implemented a risk management approach to clearing the ordnance at the site and The Defence Infrastructure Organisation Explosive Ordnance Clearance (DIO EOC) is the contact for the ordnance clearance activities. Regular (2-4 times per year) geophysical surveys of the beach are carried out to identify metallic objects. This survey is non-intrusive and consists of a 4WD vehicle towing a trailer across the beach. The magnetometers used to carry out this work give a different response according to the size of the metallic object and, from this, anomalies are identified for subsequent investigation by a trained military team who will excavate the anomalies and remove any ordnance from the beach. There are also signs at the beach informing users of the previous use of the beach and advising what steps to take should they have a concern that a piece of ordnance is present. In the first instance, the public is asked to contact the civil police, and then the clearance squadron, army or navy will investigate.

All UK SACs and SPAs feature in Naval Command HQ (NCHQ) guidance for naval activities which have been endorsed by UK statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCBs), including Natural England.

All UK marine SACs and SPAs are identified within generic NCHQ guidance to its Commanding Officers for operations in or adjacent to marine protected areas. This guidance is followed during training evolutions and will be considered during active operations. Where the guidance is incompatible with military requirements an escalating system of environmental assessment is employed to avoid any likely significant effect in accordance with The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.  NB: Guidance is currently under review with SNCBs so including specific activity guidance within an SAC management plan is probably not appropriate. (Info provided by Chief Environment & Safety Officer (Royal Navy) CESO (RN))