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Off-road row.

Byline: Sarah Stack

A row has broken out over plans to build an off-road team-building centre in a residential area of Yarm.

Protesters are preparing for battle after it was revealed a military vehicle enthusiast has re-submitted plans to run a management training centre from his Yarm home.

Last summer Bill Bates, of Leven Bank Road, caused fury among neighbours with proposals to make his passion his livelihood.

But his plan to transform eight acres behind his home into an off-road driving course with military vehicles, a shooting centre and helicopter landing pad was withdrawn just days before it was due to be heard by Stockton Council's planning committee.

Mr Bates, who began collecting military vehicles eight years ago, has now decided to reduce the size of the enterprise, focusing on management training with less noisy pursuits, including quad-biking, four-wheel drive and air rifle shooting.

"I want to introduce team-building type exercises," said the businessman. "This time there will not be any military vehicles or a helicopter pad, so noise levels will be practically nonexistent.

"The air rifle and pistol rifle shooting proposed is also a lot quieter than clay pigeon shooting, which was first proposed."

But the reduced plans have not appeased nearby homeowners. They have repeated their concerns about noise pollution and fear the centre could add to traffic problems.

Peter and Lin Roy, whose home is metres from the proposed site, said they were horrified.

"It is not the right area for these sort of things," said Mrs Roy.

"Mr Bates has been holding events, the most recent this month, with people dressed in camouflage being carried in his military vehicles, cheering, shouting and shooting.

"Our house shakes when the vehicles drive past and to be shooting guns in this day and age with all the problems in the world is horrendous."

Leven Bank has been the scene of several car accidents. The latest happened just days ago when a car left the road and ploughed into the garden of Richard and Judy Bain.

The pair said traffic is already set to increase on the dangerous bend, with the development of nine homes at the site of the former Cross Keys Inn.

Mrs Bain fears that military vehicles will continue to be used, despite Mr Bates' reassurances to the contrary.

She said: "We live 160 metres away and already get pellets hitting our conservatory."

Mr Bates' neighbours also said he had continued to advertise the activities on Stockton Council's website, despite not having planning permission.

A council spokeswoman said: "The operator did not inform our tourism service of the planning position and we have now withdrawn the reference to the site from our web pages."

The latest proposals are expected to be considered by planners next month.

* Anyone wanting to comment on the proposals can contact Stockton Council's planning department before August 23.
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2005
Words:476
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