Head of Planning
West Berkshire Council
Newbury 22nd February 2007
Dear Garry Lugg
Application Reference: 06/02881/FULMAJ
Address: White Tower Nursery Station Road Aldermaston Reading
Proposal: Almshouses and car park/land in connection with the school and parish playground
White Tower Nursery is near to The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). This unique nuclear site has a 3Km countermeasure zone contained in its Off-Site Emergency Plan. In the event of a nuclear accident, residents within 3Km must take shelter or be evacuated, depending on the severity of the event. West Berkshire Council, Hampshire County Council and the emergency services are responsible for carrying out the safety plan under the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations (REPPIR). The local authority would also be involved in ensuring that post accident re-housing, decontamination, remediation and monitoring is carried out and may have to cope with a community where people were unable to return home for many years.
The site is also inside, or very close to, the 600metre evacuation zone needed in the event of a radiation risk from a TCHD warhead transporter accident.
Application for Housing Development within the 3Km zone
This revised planning application may meet planning requirements in other respects, but the previous objection to houses on the site, lodged by NIS to the first application, still stands. NIS objected to the proposal on safety grounds. The AWE Off-Site Emergency Evacuation Plan will be difficult enough to carry out for existing households, without adding to the number of people to be evacuated in Aldermaston, particularly if they are infirm. Annex A of the Plan shows White Towers land clearly within the Evacuation/ Sheltering distance. The Applicant should be made aware that it would be unreasonable to stretch limited accident response resources over a greater number of vulnerable people.
Clearly, the Applicant needs to be free to move on and should be fully compensated for the value of his property investment. Compulsory purchase of the land by West Berks. Council, with adequate recompense to the applicant, reimbursed by AWE, would be the safest solution. The land could then be maintained for the benefit for the village but not for habitation.
There is no objection to the land being used for other socially useful purposes such as car park/land in connection with the school and parish playground, as listed in the application.
A Matter for Full Council
It is surprising that planning applicants are entitled to submit plans for new housing developments within REPPIR site countermeasure zones and the full council should look at this policy since it is the authority responsible for carrying out an evacuation, or for caring for disabled clients during a period of sheltering.