AN ANCIENT woodland could be transformed into a combat zone under plans to stage war games.
A third of the historic Butter Nab Woods, at Beaumont Park, could be dedicated to airsofting – a game using air-powered replica firearms to fire plastic pellets.
The private wood is owned by the Colne Valley Beagles.
Under planning laws, the group is allowed to hold combat events for up to 28 days without seeking permission from Kirklees Council.
But today residents raised concerns about the threat to the natural woodland, which is home to different species including birds, bats and other wildlife.
They were also worried about the safety of people using a nearby public footpath and the impact on the local area.
Jim Gillan, of Delves Wood Road, said: “This is land that has been continually wooded since 1600. The Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission both struggle to preserve these ancient woodlands and their wildlife.
“Anything that threatens these things will be of huge concern. As far as any habitat is concerned, things living in there will be trampled on and destroyed by this.
“People are also worried about the noise pollution coming from it, as well as parking and access problems, littering of the woodland with plastic pellets and anti-social behaviour.”
John Pearson, also of Delves Wood Road, raised his concerns.
He said: “My house backs onto the wood so it will be the noise level that affects me personally.
“People are not happy at all. The hunt has been totally secretive about it all.
“We cannot legally stop it, but we want them to explain what they are doing and come up with concessions.”
A Kirklees Council official confirmed they had been in talks with the group to discuss the proposal.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of the public right of way issue and are currently investigating.
“As far as planning goes, the use can benefit from a permission generally granted by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 for a period of no more than 28 days out of a calendar year.”
James Swanbury, joint master of the Colne Valley Beagles, said nothing had been decided.
“Everything is being run past the relevant authorities,” he said. “There is nothing fully agreed as yet.
“We own the wood lock, stock and barrel and what we do with our property should be of no concern to those people who live nearby.
“There would be one or two shallow trenches but there will be more built up than down so there will be no disturbance to the tree roots.
“It will not affect the public footpath, it will not be within 100 yards of it.
“We have no intention of damaging anything. Airsofting is not damaging, the pellets are biodegradable, non-toxic and not harmful.
“It is a use of the wood which will be hopefully nothing but beneficial to the wood.”
He revealed plans to hold a public meeting in the near future to address any concerns and allow the airsofting guns to be demonstrated.