Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Saturday, 20 June 2009 15:37 UK

Surfers protest over MoD wave ban

Broad Bench
Surfers say Broad Bench is a "jewel in the crown of surfing"

More than 200 surfers have taken part in a protest over Ministry of Defence (MoD) restrictions on a Dorset beach.

Surfers cannot access Broad Bench - a wave of up to 15ft (4.5m) in Kimmeridge Bay - when the MoD is firing live rounds at its Lulworth Army Range.

One of the protesters Timo Mullen said: "It's got to the point where, in the prime season for surfing, our access has been limited to only a few days."

But the MoD said the area is open to the public about 137 days a year.

More than 200 wave riders paddled out in Kimmeridge to protest against the MoD's "uncompromising" stance.

A reduction in this training time would ultimately endanger lives

Ex-British surfing team member Guy Penwarden said: "The wave we get at Broad Bench is a unique natural phenomenon. There's no wave like it within 200 miles of here."

But an MoD spokesman defended the restrictions, saying: "The area is a vital training ground for British servicemen and women, allowing them to prepare for live firing situations in Afghanistan.

"A reduction in this training time would ultimately endanger their lives.

"We have taken steps to make the Broad Bench wave available to the public where it is practical and safe to do so."

The Lulworth Ranges are part of the Army's Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School, stretching from Kimmeridge Bay to Lulworth Cove.

The campaigners want a meeting with Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth to talk about changing the position and line of fire so the beach would no longer be in the training zone.

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