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In 2021 we successfully won a competitive tender from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to manage the real and perceived risk of UXO at Mappleton Beach, Hull.  

Brimstone won a competitive tender from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to manage UXO contamination at Mappleton Beach, Hull. This was a pivotal moment in defence engagement due to it being the first time DIO had awarded a long-term contract to a commercial organisation for clearing explosive ordnance on public land.

The former air weapons range, RAF Cowden, is a coastal area of 275 hectares of land north of Hull. The site was used from the 1940s as a combined artillery and field firing range prior to transfer to RAF custody in 1955. Thereafter, it remained an active range until 1998, when the site was closed. It is thought that over 2.5 million ammunition items were expended on the range during its operation.

Substantial explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) efforts have been made over the past twenty years to manage the UXO risk to the public. Although most of the ammunition expended on the range was on land-based targets, thousands of items of UXO appear on the beach each year. The rate of erosion in the area is on average, 2.5m per year and features some of the fastest eroding coastline in Europe. As the sea erodes the cliffs, causing them to topple, UXO contamination on the headland is deposited on the beach.

Cowden uxo being prepped
Preparing an explosive charge at cowden.

Brimstone’s presence at RAF Cowden

The site is highly complex, with restricted access hours to the beach, high levels of contamination and public access. Stakeholder liaison is equally intricate, involving the local council and local landowners through to the Ministry of Defence and Natural England.

We have a permanent team of advanced bomb disposal officers on-site to manage the risk. They are equipped with an off-grid explosive magazine, off-road vehicles, and a secure compound at the former range headquarters. The team carry out explosive demolitions on a weekly basis to destroy the dangerous items, whilst remediating all inert objects to a demilitarisation and recycling plant. All operators have been trained in paramedic-level pre-hospital emergency care. Since we won the project, the total number of items destroyed or removed from the site exceeds 175,000 items.

Our time at RAF Cowden has been marked by continuous improvement in our practices. One notable achievement has been the identification and implementation of more efficient methods for UXO disposal, involving reduced plastic explosive quantities. This has not only enhanced safety on-site but has contributed to more sustainable resource usage and a remarkable 50% reduction in explosives costs since the project’s inception.

These changes have provided a range of benefits, not just for Brimstone but for local residents. The reduction of explosives used has effectively reduced noise levels, enhancing the overall quality of life for nearby residents and preserving the natural environment. This has resulted in improved stakeholder relationships, which is essential for the success of this project.

We’ll be on site for the next four years managing the UXO risk, through investigations, surveys and disposal operations.

Brimstone uxo at raf cowden

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