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Small but significant victory for anti-nuclear groups as Planning Committee demands more environmental information for AWE developments

Yesterday evening campaigners opposing the development of new facilities at AWE Aldermaston were celebrating what they consider a small but significant victory. After representatives of Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp and the Nuclear Information Service presented their objections to two Notices of Proposed Development (NoPDs) [1] (which had been submitted to a West Berkshire District Council by the Ministry of Defence in December 2004), the Eastern Area Planning Committee appeared to concur with their request for the production of environmental impact information for the whole of AWE?s Site Development Strategy Plan (of which these two NoPDs are a small part).

Campaigners had been calling on West Berkshire District Council to use their powers to refer these two NoPDs back to the Secretary of State and to support a call for a public inquiry into all of the new developments at AWE Aldermaston. Campaigners also referred to the government?s own guidelines concerning a Environmental Impact Assessments [2]. These guidelines state that ?a planning application should not be considered in isolation if, in realty, it is properly to be regarded as an integral part of an inevitably more substantial development?.

During the Planning Committee meeting at which the two NoPDs were being considered, one for an office building to house staff and contractors working on the new developments and the other one for two blast-proof modular IT buildings, a representative of AWE confirmed that they were only part of a much bigger development plan for the site. He also admitted that no Environmental Impact Assessment for the site as a whole has been carried out.

The Council did not object to the two NoDPs before them last night, but decided to ask the Ministry of Defence for an environmental assessment of all the of the developments, taken as a whole, much on the basis of information provided by campaigners.

This is unlikely to postpone the start of the construction work at AWE Aldermaston, but represents a small but significant shift in the Councillors? way of dealing with issues which, by their very nature, are more substantial than a district planning committee should be asked to deal with.

Outside the planning meeting a second group of activists staged a die-in, using white body bags lined up close to the entrance, to symbolise the ?nuclear dead?. Fittingly a brief snow-flurry added to the sombre atmosphere

As these two NoDPs now are supported by the Planning Committee, activists from the Block the Builders campaign reiterate that they intend to nonviolently, block the new developments when the work start on site ? possibly as soon as this month or early next month.

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Background
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Since the publication of Aldermaston?s Site Development Strategy Plan in 2002 [3] AWE has already gained outline agreement for a massive laser facility, which experts believe will enable AWE to replicate the conditions of a nuclear explosion and create the means to circumvent the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to which the UK is a signatory.

The new developments will also violate the UK's commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to work in "good faith towards nuclear disarmament". With the Non-Proliferation Treaty up for review in May 2005, anti-nuclear campaigners are concerned that the nature of the construction work planned implies a renewed investment in Britain's nuclear weapons programme.

According to the government, a decision about a replacement for the Trident system would made be in the next parliament [4]

info@aldermaston.net UKm 07969 739 812

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Notes:
1. Notices of Proposed Development are currently submitted to local authorities for developments on Crown land (under DoE Circular 18/84). Local Planning Committees do not have the power to reject NoPDs, but may acknowledge objections and ask for the matter to be referred back to the Secretary of State. The immunity offered by DoE 18/84 is due to be removed in 2006.
2. Environmental Impact Assessments. See http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_planning/documents/page/odpm_plan_606799-04.hcsp(multipleapplications)and case law R v Swale BC ex parte RSPB (1991) 1PLR6
3. Background information on developments at AWE Aldermaston can be found at
http://www.aldermaston.net/tng and http://www.nuclearinfo.org/updates
4. Background on Block the Builders campaign at
http://www.blockthebuilders.org.uk