NINETEEN staff at a gun testing site in Ridsdale were given the good news that their jobs were safe, just days before Christmas.

In October, defence contractor BAE Systems announced it would close its gun testing range at The Steel by the end of this year.

Fifteen permanent staff and four contractors were to be affected, and talks were talking place about whether they could be transferred to other areas of the business before redundancies were made.

BAE Systems said it was making the decision in order to create a more efficient service for the Ministry of Defence.

But last Thursday, the staff were told that the closure would no longer take place.

A spokesman for BAE Systems said: “We have now decided to retain Ridsdale and continue our operations there.

“Following consultation and feedback on the potential risks of closing the site, we undertook a more detailed review of the costs associated with moving test and evaluation services to a third-party.

“As a result of this review, we have made a decision to keep Ridsdale open.”

The gun testing site has a long-established history in the village of Ridsdale and munitions test firings had been carried out there since 1870.

The gun testing range was previously owned by Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, and was used to proof test large gun barrels from battleships and cruisers which were built by Vickers Armstrong in Elswick, Newcastle.

The village pub, which was also owned by Lord Armstrong, bears the name the Gun Inn in recognition of the area’s connection with the arms industry.

BAE Systems said it will continue to look for efficiencies and ways to improve its services to customers.

The spokesman added: “This has understandably been a difficult time for the team at Ridsdale, but they have continued to show true professionalism while this review has been carried out.

“We are pleased to bring some certainty as we approach the new year.”