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UK WMD project advances - campaigners take action

Campaigners opposing the new developments at AWE Aldermaston will hold a symbolic 'die-in' outside a West Berkshire District Council Planning Committee meeting this Wednesday to draw Councillors' attention to the potential implications of their support for two new building projects submitted by the Ministry of Defence. Anti-nuclear groups believe the construction heralds a new era of research and development of British nuclear weapons.

The Eastern Area Planning Committee will be considering two Notices of Proposed Development (NoPDs), which were submitted by the Ministry of Defence to the Council in December 2003.

"We are calling on West Berkshire council to use their powers to refer these proposals back to the Secretary of State and support our call for a public inquiry into all of the new developments at AWE Aldermaston" said a spokesperson from Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign). "These two apparently innocuous buildings signal the start of a huge development plan at AWE which will equip the site to test, design and build the next generation of nuclear weapons".

The two NoPDs [1] are for an office building to house staff and contractors working on the new developments and for two blast-proof modular IT buildings which are believed to be linked to the sites new supercomputer.

Aldermaston women's Peace Campaign believe that even if the committee cannot concern itself with the nuclear implications of these developments, they should at least scrutinise the environmental impact of the developments outlined in AWE's Site Development Strategy Plan as a whole.

The government's own guidelines state that ?a planning application should not be considered in isolation if, in reality, it is properly to be regarded as an integral part of an inevitably more substantial development? [2]

If the two NoPDs currently before the Planning Committee pass unopposed, activists from the Block the Builders campaign nonviolently block the new developments when work starts on site ? possibly as soon as later this month or early next month [3].

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]

The West Berkshire District Council (WBDC) Planning Committee (Eastern Area) meeting will be held on 23 February at 6pm,will meet at the Cornwell Centre in Tilehurst, nr Reading [5] UKm 07969 739 812
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 (multiple applications) and case law R v Swale BC ex parte RSPB (1991) 1PLR6
3. Background information on developments at AWE Aldermaston can be found at and
4. Background on Block the Builders campaign at
5. The Planning Committee meeting will be held at the Cornwell Centre, Homecroft, off Clements Mead, Tilehurst RG31 (See
Photo opportunity at 5.45pm, visual theme ? ?nuclear dead?.