'A victory for common sense': Joanna Lumley hails win in campaign over detonating explosives at sea

Joanna Lumley in Old Palace Yard, London, following her victory on banning detonation as a means of clearing underwater unexploded ordnance for offshore windfarm construction. Credit: PA

Actress Joanna Lumley has hailed a “victory for common sense” after the government signalled its preference for undetonated explosives found in the sea to be cleared using quieter methods.

The veteran model and Absolutely Fabulous actress teamed up with marine conservation charities to call for a change in how unexploded war munitions retrieved from the water are disposed of.

The Stop Sea Blasts campaign warn that detonating unexploded devices disrupts marine habitants and threatens the survival of whales and dolphins.

It is urging for items to instead be burned using a technology called low-order deflagration- which the group says involves a small magnesium cone being fired against the device “causing its explosive contents to ‘burn out’ from the inside”.

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In a policy paper published on Tuesday, the government said it supported the use of "lower noise alternatives" in place of what it calls "high order detonation", as it recognised that marine species can be injured by the sound from blasts.

Welcoming the statement, Lumley, speaking as part of the Stop Sea Blasts campaign, said she was “thrilled” and described it as a “wonderful day”.

“I’m thrilled that today the government has, as far as I understand it, for the first time, clearly stated that using more environmentally friendly methods of clearing these unexploded bombs such as low order deflagration is the way forward," she said.

“This is a victory for common sense. I thank the ministers for taking this bold step as well as all the supportive MPs and peers who have got behind this.

“And, of course, I thank the 120,000 people who supported this campaign."

The actress, who met sympathetic MPs near Westminster on Tuesday afternoon, said the deflagration method is 100 times less damaging, adding that it should be a “no-brainer” to adopt the practice.

Joanna Lumley with Rebecca Pow MP, in Old Palace Yard, London. Credit: PA

A large number of explosives such as rockets, torpedoes and sea mines were left undetonated following the two World Wars, and such devices must be safely cleared before construction of structures like wind farms.

The government paper recognised that seabed disturbance is among the “key environmental concerns” when clearing such objects using high order detonation.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We absolutely recognise the impact that underwater noise from clearing unexploded ordnance can have on vulnerable marine species.

“Today we have made clear that our preference is for the use of quieter alternative methods, whilst ensuring measures are in place to protect both the environment and human safety, as trials are ongoing.”