West Berkshire Council has granted planning permission for a new hydrodynamics research facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston – despite receiving 1,331 letters of objection to the proposed development.
The Council's Eastern Area Planning Committee met on Wednesday 29 September and, accepting the recommendations of planning officers, voted to give the go ahead for Project Hydrus – AWE's new research facility which will be used to conduct experiments on materials used to build nuclear warheads. The facility will generate data needed for the design of new warhead types, available for exchange with nuclear scientists in the USA as currency to justify US-UK co-operation on nuclear weapons.
Rebecca Johnson, Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, spoke eloquently against the proposals and explained how Project Hydrus both counters the spirit of the international Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and undermines promises given by the UK government at the recent Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.
Managers from AWE also attended the meeting to speak in favour of the development, making a number of startling claims. According to AWE no objections were received from local communities and that, contrary to recent press revelations, fire-fighting arrangements at AWE worked well during the recent serious fire at an explosives processing building.
Despite warnings that no information on potential safety and environmental risks had been provided, members of the planning committee decided not to challenge AWE on this point and voted to grant planning permission. Only one member of the committee voted against the proposal: Councillor Alan Macro (Liberal Democrat), who has consistently raised questions on developments at AWE during planning committee meetings.
Peter Burt, Director of Nuclear Information Service said: “The level of opposition to the Project Hydrus planning application shows how unpopular development at AWE is, and highlights concerns that local people have over the lack of information about potential risks posed by the factory.
“Project Hydrus will cost hundreds of millions of pounds to build at a time when vital local services are facing cuts. In nearby Reading, six hundred health service staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital face losing their jobs as a result of cash shortages, yet there is plenty of money for research into new nuclear weapons. Somehow, we seem to have got our priorities dreadfully wrong.”