The Ministry of Defense has started preparing the planing process for a new Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) training ground in Harju County, reflecting the needs of both the EDF and NATO allies, in particular with respect to tracked and armored vehicles.
The land is located alongside the Piibe highway, which links Tallinn and Tartu, while the Soodla reservoir, which provides some of Tallinn's drinking water, falls within the planned training area. The ministry has started preparing the accompanying special plan.
Three separate training areas are planned, including for use as artillery firing positions which will aim at targets placed on the EDF's central training area, also in Harju County.
Barriers, signals masts and information boards are to be installed; naturally the training area is closed to the public during exercises.
Connecting roads will be built to link to the Piibe and Narva highways, and to the central training area.
The proposed training area will be around 6km north-to-south and 10km east-to-west, while its eastern section will fall within the Põhja Kõrvemaa nature reserve, an EU NATURA 2000 zone.
Some tree-felling will be needed to accommodate armored vehicles, Miiko Peris, who heads up the ministry's innovation department, told ERR, though at this stage was unable to say whether and to what extent the work would affect the nature zone.
He said: "For this reason were are evaluating all impact holistically, to create a picture which will allow us to say what is needed and where, and what is not. It is indeed the case that we need the zone for armored maneuvers; should this concern the nature zone and to what extent, I cannot hurry ahead of events."
In creating the plan, the presence of the Soodla reservoir, which is a key source for Tallinn's water supply, and is also quite actively used by residents of the capital and of Harju County as a recreation area, will also be taken into account, he added.
"In this we are cooperating with [private sector water supplier] Tallinna Vesi and we have informed them about the next steps in the preparation of the plan."
"We expect proposals from them during the course of the preparation of the plan and the same from other interested parties," Peris continued.
Eight privately-owned properties and three buildings will remain inside the training zone's limits as planned, and negotiations about their ultimate fate are now underway.
The ministry hopes to publish the draft special plan in the first months of 2023, with the preliminary environmental impact assessment report to follow in the summer of 2024, Peris added. "These deadlines may be subject to change as the work progresses, but we are assessing the next steps within this time-frame."
The basis of the detailed plan regarding the training area (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots