Express & Star

New police firearms training centre in Stafford gets green light, replacing leased site

Staffordshire Police has been given the green light to build a new firearms training centre to replace rural facilities hampered by adverse weather conditions and noise complaints.

Staffordshire Police HQ in Weston Road, Stafford

The force currently leases an outdoor site near Eccleshall, but there are issues affecting the availability of the site as well as quality of training.

Plans to create a new £18 million facility in Stafford first hit the headlines in 2021. Last year Staffordshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Ben Adams approved revised proposals, which were expected to cost almost £15m.

On Tuesday, Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee granted permission for a two-storey hub and training facility to be built at the force’s headquarters at Weston Road.

Three existing buildings, which contain a mix of offices and training space, will be demolished to make way for the new development.

Richard Battams, who spoke in support of the application at Tuesday’s meeting, said: “Staffordshire Police have a duty to keep the people and communities of Staffordshire safe.

"This includes having an armed response capability to address threats from those with firearms and bladed weapons within Staffordshire and the force being able to provide mutual aid regionally and nationally when requested.

"Training for Staffordshire Police’s armed response officers is currently carried out at an outdoor facility near Eccleshall; the facility has been leased by the force for a number of years, with the current lease ending in December 2026.

"There are a number of issues with the existing facility, which impact on its availability, the quality of training and the longevity of the site.

"The range backstop and the ground at the existing facility are prone to freezing, flooding and baking which renders it unusable at times. This impacts on the training schedule and can lead to officers going out of certification, which means they cannot be deployed."

Mr Battams further explained that the local authority had been presented with complaints as a result of the noise generated by shooting at the site.

He added: "Whilst the force has taken technical and management measures to mitigate the noise nuisance, it is not possible to eliminate the noise entirely and this will continue to be an issue inherent in our use of this facility, which may ultimately threaten its viability.

“The solution that is proposed is intended to provide a high-quality training venue to meet the firearms training requirements of Staffordshire Police for the next 40 years.

"As well as resolving the training requirements the facility will include modern armoury facilities and facilities to supply our armed response vehicles to enable threats in central Staffordshire to be directly addressed from our headquarters site.

"The facility has been designed with a south facing roof which will be clad with approximately 1,000 square metres of solar panels to contribute towards the power requirements of the building and wider site.

"The decision to develop the facility at our headquarters site will minimise officer travelling time, cost and environmental impact and reduce the risk of transporting weapons and ammunition around the county for training purposes."

Committee members voted unanimously to approve the application on Tuesday.

Councillor Bryan Cross commented that he "couldn't see a problem" with the proposed plans, whilst councillor Scott Spencer added that he was "gratified" to see the environmental and sustainable benefits in the application.

Councillor Marnie Phillips added: “I applaud Staffordshire Police for bringing this application forward and for the environmental inclusions they have put in as well.

“It is a high-quality training venue and there is a need. I am wholly supportive of the fact they are doing this – anything that is going to be beneficial to our local police teams and training facilities can only be a good thing.”

Speaking after the meeting Staffordshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Ben Adams said he was pleased with the result.

He added: “I am pleased to hear that planning permission has been granted for the proposed firearms training facility in Stafford.

"Police firearms deployments in Staffordshire are relatively low, but when our communities need an armed response to keep them safe, it is essential that the force has the right training and facilities in place to deliver the highest quality service.

"Police forces have a legal responsibility to meet not only national College of Policing standards but also local strategic threat and risk assessments. These have evolved considerably in recent years, requiring solutions that improve services, protect the public from harm and deliver value for money for the long term.

"Using public money efficiently is a priority for me. And this investment is part of a wider estates plan for Staffordshire Police to ensure buildings are sustainable and future-proof."