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Important update on activities to take place at Altcar Training Camp as another year comes to an end

Dear Residents of Hightown & Formby,


As another year comes to an end, it is only right that I update our “neighbours” on the activities that have – and will take place on Altcar Training Camp.


The aim of this letter is to provide you with an update and a brief on Altcar Training Camp. We sit on your doorstep so the update is important.  

I am Colonel Mark Underhill, and I am the Chief Executive of the organisation on the top of this letter head.  Altcar Training Camp, whilst fully funded by the Ministry of Defence, is owned (under a “title absolute”) and managed by the Association I run.


The Altcar Training Camp mission is to:


Deliver a safe, sustainable, compliant and managed training estate and range complex to support theoperational and training outputs ensuring maximum use of the estate is used for:

Regular tri-Service Units (Army, Royal Navy & Air Force)

Reserve tri-Service Units (Army, Royal Navy & Air Force)

Cadet Units (Combined Cadet Force, Army Cadet Force, Royal Air Force Air Cadets and Sea Cadet Corps

And to enable irreducible spare capacity to be used for:

Other Government Departments e.g. Police & other Emergency Services

Other users through the Alternative Venues initiative – hiring out elements of the estate when not required


The site must be prepared to provide accommodation and training facilities for operational surge activities/requirements.  In terms of surge deployments, the camp has definitely stepped up over recent years and the last considerable support was given during the COVID-19 pandemic in the North West under Military Aid to the Civil Authorities.  Altcar Training Camp was used extensively throughout by the military.  


Facts & Figures: Altcar Training Camp is split by the River Alt – the camp, accommodation (720 bed spaces- so a “big” hotel) and real life support services are on the east side of the river and the ranges (10) and training areas are on the west side of the river.  The two respective sides of the camp are over 620 acres in size and the association also owns and controls an additional 500 acres of foreshore (the beach).  

 Training for the Regular members of the Armed Forces continues to increase (from the lower figures during the pandemic). The use of the site by our reservists and cadets over the last few months has picked up noting that Altcar Training Camp is a prime location for back to basics soldiering.          


Night shoots:  We have a number of night shoots each year and the dates for these shoots are published monthly on the Hightown Face Book page they are also published on the  Hightown Parish Council website:  

These night shoots are an essential/critical element of training and operational output for our Armed Forces.  Please bear with us as they train during hours of dusk and darkness. For note: we have 5 x night shoots in January 2024.


Helicopter Activity (and straying onto Altcar Training Camp): In addition to our main training efforts, we have a number of helicopters that use the camp throughout the year.  We have had, on occasions over 12 helicopters based on site in one go and they fly during the hours of darkness; many of you will have heard them!  They joined us as they do most years for a week of activities (July 2023).   We hope to see them in 2024.  For those of you that are not supportive of this activity I must point out that flying at night is an essential part of their training output and therefore we have always notified Hightown/Formby residents of this activity.  We warn against anyone trying to enter the site when the Helicopter exercise is in play – or at any time of the year and we would ask that you please stay off camp and stick to the public footpath that surrounds the camp.  The site is littered with military debris and these can be dangerous if handled incorrectly and trying to remove some of the military debris off site could cause harm or even constitute a criminal offence.  We advise, by way of obvious boundary signage, that people should not enter the camp.


Please note: when the red flags are flying the beach is out of bounds to the public. The beach is not a safe place to be during live firing.


Field Supply Area (FSA):

The Field Supply Area (FSA), completed a couple of years ago (see picture above), has provided all year round troop training capability.  We have a number of outdoor classroom/Dutch barns on site – these are temporary structures enabled to facilitate outdoor COVID compliant teaching, training and operational output activity. Their usage is expect to significantly increase when the “new normal – post-COVID” is applied.  


Flooding: Sadly the bad weather and particularly rain – and we have had some over recent weeks has meant that a number of ranges and training areas have been flooded. Our ranges have multiple functions.  They provide safe and controlled live firing for various small arm weapon systems.   In addition to the above, multiple units use the range for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) engagement.  All site ranges are currently in a safe and compliant format.


Alt House:    My headquarters is now well and truly “bedded in” and we are delighted with the build. The build comprises a two-story office building located near the southern boundary of Altcar Training Camp, not far from the main entrance.  It is a modern, sustainable and eco-friendly building (footprint c400sq metres) with an associated car park (footprint c600sq metres) which provides an enduring base for our ongoing work in support of the Reserve Forces and Cadet organisations in the region.


With various facilities on camp – we have plenty of space to keep the users busy – such as an excellent football and rugby pitch as well as a fully fitted and fantastic gym:

The PODs:  This great voluntary project for our wounded injured and sick soldiers, sailors and airman, has really caught the imagination of the local residents, and has been completed for a couple of years.  But, it is just a disappointment that due to a complaint we have been trying to obtain retrospective planning permission for over 2 years and until Sefton Council give us the go ahead we are unable to open up the facility to our wounded, injured and sick personnel to stay overnight.


Moving forward: A number of external factors across the Ministry of Defence training estate is seeing many pressures through shortage of availability of ranges and training areas which is seeing an increase in potential enquiries from military organisations to come and use “Altcar”.  If we have space – we will accept their requirements and so I do see the numbers of units/organisations coming to Hightown increasing. So, what I can be absolutely sure of is that 2024 will be very busy – indeed there are large periods over the next 12 months when Altcar is “full” and so we will see an increase in vehicle traffic enter and leave Hightown as they access the camp.  


I would ask residents adjacent to the camp and training areas that we have been in existence for well over 100 years but we still get complaints from a very small cohort of “residents” who are not happy with the number of vehicles accessing/departing Hightown or the “noise” from the ranges.  As I mentioned above, we must have the facility to allow our Armed Forces to train in the hours of darkness and so night time activity will continue.  Please pass on to any friends who might be looking that moving into the near/surrounding area that Altcar Training Camp is potentially on their doorstep and we have been in existence longer than any resident in the area; “due diligence” comes to mind! I am sure we will be here for many more years to come!  


It just remains for me to thank you all for your forbearance; we appreciate the noise – from vehicles, gun fire and helicopters may at times be loud.  It is a camp of strategic importance and your continued support to our Armed Forces and the cadet and other organisations that use the camp is very much appreciated.    


So, with all the above in mind, and that you live within the vicinity of Altcar Training Camp, I would like to offer you and your families the opportunity of coming onto site, meeting the Commandant and I (with our wives) and allowing us to brief you further on Altcar Training Camp and showing you around the facilities.


Details of I and the Commandant are as follows:


• Mark Underhill (me): As per the top of this letter

• Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Black (Commandant Altcar Training Camp):


Altcar Training Camp, Grange Road, HIGHTOWN, Merseyside, L38 7JD Civilian: 0151 929 2601 | Mobile: 07903 366000

If you would like to take up our offer would you be so kind to drop us an email and we will organises a date(s) and come back to you. In the meantime, if you have any questions then please feel free to contact Gordon or I.


With every good wishes to you and your families and friends for 2024.


Yours faithfully,


Mark Underhill

Supporting Britain’s Reserve Forces and Cadets

Cheshire • Cumbria • Greater Manchester • Isle of Man • Lancashire • Merseyside





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