NIS UPDATE December 2007
Last Minute Complaint relating to HEFF Plans
The date for general objections to the High Explosive Fabrication Facility has now closed, but if perchance you did not get round to making an objection and wish to make the following complaint, PLEASE DO SO IMMEDIATELY to CInwards@westberks.gov.uk
The closing date in response to the advertisement in the Newbury Weekly News on 29/11/07 is 13th December; for the site notice at AWE it is 18th December. http://ww2.westberks.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/DcApplication/application_detailview.aspx?caseno=JRLE7WRD02K00&searchtype=WEEKLY
A legal ground for complaint is that because information is withheld for national security reasons in this application, there is insufficient information available on which to comment. The Local Planning Authority (LPA) can refuse or non-determine the case as it is not able to give consultees sufficient information on which to assess the plans and is itself being asked to approve plans for a building with serious hazards, with insufficient information. Exemption Certificate(s) do not resolve the problem.
WBC expects to proceed to Committee on 6th February 2008. We do not know yet if WBC Officers and Lawyers will recommend approval, but the Committee will make the final decision. We hope it will take into account that the government anticipated this situation and has made provision for refusal or non-determination in the Special Arrangements and Exemptions Relating to MOD Development,Chapter 3 of the Planning and Development in the UK v.1.0 March 2007:
‘[T]he MOD may be prevented on national security grounds from disclosing some of the details of the development. This may lead to the LPA deciding that it lacks the information necessary to make an informed determination such that it either has to refuse the application or fail to determine it.’
‘In appealing against a refusal or non-determination in such cases, MOD can request that the SoS DCLG (or devolved administration) gives a Section 321 Direction under the TCPA (in Scotland, a Section 265A Direction under the TCP(S)A). This will have the effect of restricting the hearing or examination of sensitive evidence to particular individuals because it would not be in the national interest for such evidence to be disclosed to the general public.’
National Security 0322/3
DCLG Circular 02/2006
Environmental Impact Assessment
The AWE equivalent non-statutory Environmental Appraisal is similarly hampered by limited information regarding the nature and magnitude of the environmental impact and risk from the proposed HEFF. The published EA information is insufficient to describe the risk to be assessed. Again, legislation anticipates the problem and makes provision for a LPA to report that insufficient information is available for it or its consultees to make a judgement, whereupon the Minister of Defence will step in. Again a complaint can be made that there is not enough EA information on which to comment on the plan.
NII yet to report on Safety Concerns
AWE is a nuclear licensed site regulated by the HSE Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). Information withheld from WBC is available to the NII and will form the basis of its decision on the safety of the HEFF design. The NII can require AWE to redesign the building, change its location or reduce the quantity of explosives throughput. According to the NII, it has not yet approved the HEFF design and is due to report to AWE in the New Year 2008. Should WBC approve a plan that was later rejected or substantially altered by the NII, the council would lay itself open to legal challenge.