AWE Aldermaston gets Planning approval from West Berks. Council to build two major office blocks to accommodate up to 1,400 new staff. Objections from a wide range of people, including Aldermaston Parish Council were over-ruled. The approval will be endorsed on 30th January, subject to the completion of a legal agreements.
Notes from WBC Planning Meeting on AWE Offices 22 January 2007-01-23
The Chair, Irene Neil announced that Aldermaston Parish Council, the Objectors group and AWE would be allowed 10 minutes to speak.
Aldermaston Parish Council
We have good relations with AWE, both formal and informal in case there is an incident we need to resolve. 18 months ago we established a Parish Traffic Plan that includes a Village Relief Road and our policy is to object to any planning matter involving traffic issues that do not include the RR. Our survey showed 70% of Aldermaston people want a RR and of those, 85% want less HGVs through the village. 33% were concerned about convoys and other AWE materials loads.
We suggested a list of mitigating measures that have now all been accepted by WBC bar the RR.
Ailsa Johnson, Block the Builders
Ailsa gave a clear objection on grounds of international law, pre-emption of parliament and ethical principles against nuclear weapons.
Di McDonald, NIS
Di asked what was in the East and West Plant Room on every floor of both buildings
Juliet McBride AWPC
Juliet presented the AWPC Objections on planning grounds
Evelyn Parker, NAG
Evelyn raised the danger of disturbing land contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive isotopes. WBC Conditions imposed on the plan allow for remediation to take place if necessary, but as this is only on discovery during the building process, it is too late and may involve WBC in costs.
Chris Simkins, AWE Planning Consultant
CS said this was AWE’s first major application since Crown Immunity was removed from MoD sites. The application is consistent with the AWE Nov. 05 Site Development Plan. It was an investment in offices and a rationalisation of parking space to improve the profile of AWE. The next 2 years will see a step change in how the site looks. The impact of the development on transport is identified under 2 heads: physical safety and the Green Travel Plan objections to construction traffic. Both will be met within Codes of Practice.
Questions from Councillors
1. How much of old office buildings will be removed and existing staff moved into these new offices?
AWE Ans: CS: Don’t know. Jonathan Brown: Allowing for1000 new workers and 600 from on-site, with a final total of 1,400
2. Is the Travel Plan ready?
AWE Ans: It is agreed with WBC
3. Have you calculated the increase in car numbers?
AWE Ans: If we can increase car sharing there will be no difference from now. There will be an extra 500 car park spaces making 1,500 for the offices but a loss of 1,000 from elsewhere
4. Will this building go ahead if there is no replacement Trident planned?
AWE Ans: Yes. We need improvements for running the warhead maintenance programme.
5. Are Buses included in the Travel Plan?
AWE Ans: Yes but this is not worked out yet.
6. What is the predicted number of traffic movements?
AWE Ans: I can’t find the figures, they are here somewhere [not produced].
7. How will you enforce staff resistance to the Travel Plan?
AWE Ans: Through Consultation.
8. How do you answer the Red Herring concerning Plant areas in the building
AWE Ans: The Plant area is completely ancillary to the building.
9. IF 3,200 people use cars now, how will traffic be reduced?
AWE Ans: The target is to reduce single person journeys to 65% with 13% sharing, making 78% of staff using car transport. That is 800 movements in and out, plus construction traffic.
10. If the [traffic] plan is not working, what will you do?
AWE Ans: JB: I have to make it work. I have to convince people they can get emergency rides home if necessary.
Chair: I want a Relief Road. But the AWE plan is excellent, and even includes footpaths from the station for use in good weather. The staff deserves new offices.
A Councillor: If a developer came up against a downturn in the economy and could not proceed with an approved plan, he does not have to. If we pass this plan, AWE can cancel it. If there is no Trident replacement, AWE could abandon the plan.
One day Aldermaston [village] will get its relief Road, but for now AWE needs new offices.
The committee approved the application unanimously with the following proviso:
That, subject to the completion of a legal agreement to provide for off-site highways works, a continuing commitment to a Travel Plan and developer contributions, the Head of Planning be authorised to grant conditional planning permission.
If the legal agreement is not completed by 30/0/07 the Head of Planning be authorised to refuse planning permission.
N.O.A. – NAG TO EAPC 22.1.07
As usual, the problem NAG has with this application is with the Environmental Impact Statement, and specifically with the way it deals with the problem of radioactive contamination.We know from previously published material that legacy contamination with plutonium has been found close to the proposed development. Pu was found in soil and drains in the area to the north east of the northern part of the proposed site.
There is therefore a reasonable expectation that as excavation proceeds contamination may be found.
Indeed, the EIS admits that the soil disturbance involved in the construction phase could uncover “radiological materials in soils and groundwaters from current or historical operations” (P7-8 of Vol 1 of the EIS) and re-suspend it,
“Dust and silt resulting from disturbance during construction activities may also arise from the movement of soil, which could potentially be contaminated, by construction machinery. This could result in the silting up of surface waters or may have adverse effects on the health of construction workers and the general public. The impacts from disturbance would be further increased if the dust and silt were contaminated” (P7-9 of Volume 1 of the EIS). and it rates the possible implications for human health as low to medium (also P7-9)
It admits that remediation may be necessary, but says that this will be a matter for monitoring as work progresses. In other words, they don’t know what they might find as they excavate, and plan to deal with any contamination discovered on a “lets deal with it as we go along” basis. The same applies to groundwater, surface water and extraction of groundwater.
These are not matters which can be dealt with by this Committee on the assumption that they are the Environment Agency’s problem. The Local Planning Authority is implicated. This is specified on P7-9
“the construction phase could potentially uncover soil contamination not previously identified during site investigation works. Should this occur contaminants will be dealt with in accordance with a remedial strategy report and in liaison with the Local Planning Authority and the Environment Agency”
The LPA therefore needs to have in readiness a plan for dealing with its part in the monitoring/remediation processes, and some idea of how much it might cost the Council to meet its obligations. What we fear is that the involvement of the LPA implies that the potential problem is not confined to on-site. Given that any minute radioactive particles unearthed can travel both in air and in water, this has to be possible.
“Potential pollution pathways……· Inhalation, dermal contact and ingestion of contaminants in soils by site groundworkers/construction staff (Medium-High) Leaching of contaminants in soils byVertical migration of contaminants into the deeper aquifer (Medium) infiltrating rainfall and migration into shallow groundwater (Medium)”
This quotation from P 7-8 concludes
“Several potential pollutant linkages between contaminant sources and sensitive receptors have thus been identified and therefore there is a residual risk that contamination could cause significant harm to human health and the local water environment during both construction and operation of the application site.. Mitigation measures thus include provision for further monitoring, and investigation, where necessary,to refine any detailed remediation.”
We do not see how, given the limited information offered by the Environmental Impact Statement, this Committee can be in a position to evaluate the implications for the Council
In conclusion, I have to remind the Committee that Plutonium is highly toxic, and like the Polonium which poisoned Mr Litvinienko, a very tiny amount if ingested or inhaled, can do a lot of damage to human health.