AWE Site Development Strategy Plan

The Outline Planning Notice of Development for the high-powered Laser and its building at AWE Aldermaston has now been publicly advertised by West Berks. District Council in the local press and objectors are asked to make submissions by 4th December 2003. The lack of time for objections is unacceptable and a solicitor's letter has been sent to the council expressing concern. A local councillor is trying to ensure that the matter goes to the Thatcham Area Planning meeting, probably on 17th December. The meeting will be open to the public and objectors will be allowed to speak under the normal rules. If you have sent a written objection, you should get a letter about the meeting in due course.

A Notification of Proposed Development has been submitted by Defence
Estates in outline form for a laser research facility at AWE Aldermaston (No 03/02313). This form of application is specifically for applications on crown land and government establishments. Government Circular 18/84 sets out the background and procedures to be following in this type of application. Essentially, it is processed in the same way as a normal planning application and should be determined within the usual 8 week statutory period. WBDC have set an 8 week date expires on 23rd December 2003.

The proposal is in outline form showing a red line for a building. The size of the building is 26m high; 110m long; 60m wide. It is intended for use as a laser generation plant, a target hall for the laser experiments, preparation rooms, laser diagnostics, laser development, optical coating and photometry. The supporting information to the council also states that the laser facility is to be used to conduct experiments on minute particles of matter for the study of plasma physics.

The Local Planning Authority can either raise no objections, raise objections to the scheme or suggest amendments, but there is no requirement for Defence Estates to revise its scheme should it not wish to do so. However, the Ministry of Defence have stated that if the LPA "refuse to comment" the matter will be referred back to the Minister, triggering a public inquiry.

The terms under which objections can be raised under planning regulations are:
In determining the application the Case Officer will consider the following:
o Whether the proposal complies with relevant national, strategic and local planning policies
o The effect of the proposal on existing neighbouring development and the character of the local area
o Any representations received regarding the proposal, both from consultees and interested parties.

Objection under the last clause should be sent immediately to:

Lisa Smith
Planning Officer
Market Street
Newbury RG14 5LD

Case Number: 0302313OUT
Site Address: Ministry Of Defence AWE Aldermaston Reading RG7 4PR
DOE CIRCULAR 1884 – Proposed Laser Research – Outline Planning

Suggested points to make:
The full opportunity for public objections to any new developments at AWE Aldermaston must be given. The proposed timetable for such objections to be lodged is inadequate, including as it does, the week before Christmas. Clearly this matter will not be dealt with by the Council between Christmas and New Year and a more reasonable date should be set to meet the February Planning Committee meeting.

The MoD planning proposal is to enable a new generation of nuclear weapons to be developed should the government make a decision to do so. It is not a local issue. British defence policy and nuclear weapons in particular are matters of national security. Before any preparations to build a new generation of smaller, more "usable" nuclear weapons are approved, the matter must be debated publicly and nationally in parliament. It is unreasonable for a local authority to be involved in such momentous decisions when it has neither the capacity nor the mandate to do so.

Mr. Ritchie for the MoD has said that the Council has the option to "refuse to comment" on the Notice. This would return the matter to the Minister who would then proceed by way of appeal to a planning inspector. Since no official decision has yet been made to develop a new weapon, there is time for the public debate to take place before, rather than after the facilities to build these weapons have been erected.

Issues concerned with nuclear weapons and the democratic process that you are familiar with should also be included.

MoD Intentions
The published data on MoD intentions at AWE is to be found (jn pdf format) at: AWE Updated Site Development Strategy Plan, September 2003

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