January 2006 Update



2002 Strategy Plan for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston

Proposal: DOE Circular 18/84 Laser research facility (Orion) 05/02003/RESMAJ

AWE Laser before West Berks. Planning Committee for the Fourth Time

In October 2003, the MoD submitted a DOE Circular 18/84 planning notice to the local council for a new laser facility to be built at AWE Aldermaston, that will be able to heat targets in 1000th the length of time it takes the existing HELEN laser. Although the planning committee approved the plan, it was withdrawn in December and the notice re-submitted in June 2004. Outline plans were then agreed and nothing more was heard until August 2005, over a year later. As a result of Objections and the failure of AWE to submit further information, the matter was deferred in November 2005. On 25th January 2006, AWE expects to get the answer it wants, that “the council has no objection to the laser plan”. However this outcome is not certain, since the committee may feel that on planning grounds alone, this is an unsuitable building to dominate the approach to the rural village of Aldermaston. http://www.awe.co.uk/Images/AWEAnnual%20report%202004_1_tcm6-3427.pdf

Inappropriate astronomical name given to the laser

Along the way, the laser gained the name “Orion” after a star constellation in the northern hemisphere. Such a beautiful name describing a phenomena in the natural world seems inappropriate to describe the means of developing and maintaining nuclear weapons to destroy a planet. Let it be called what it is: a configuration of lasers. http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~dolan/constellations/constellations/Orion.html

Public attendance at Planning Meetings on AWE laser proposal

The effect of a full public gallery on planning committee members at meetings to consider AWE plans cannot be underestimated. Local councillors may or may not like to be asked to rubber stamp MoD plans for AWE, but being humiliated in public by AWE and the MoD was a step too far at the November meeting. Committee Members complained that either they had not received or had not had time to assess AWE’s 11th hour submission of its ‘Sustainability Appraisal’. Councillor Joe Moody exclaimed that members appeared to be wasting their time when officer Dave Pearson said the committee could not actually prevent the plans going ahead. The committee then voted to defer a decision rather than follow the officer’s forceful advice to offer no objection. Around 25 concerned people attended the Meeting. Four people spoke very effectively against the Laser research facility, with reasonable and well-founded objections. The Minutes of the meeting record:

RESOLVED that the Head of Planning and Transport Strategy be authorised to defer this application until all Members had had an opportunity to consider the information contained within the Strategic Sustainability Appraisal and Site Development Context Plan.



Uncertain interpretation

The resolution in the Minutes may be the officers’ interpretation but those of us present may consider the councillors deferred the plan until all Members had an opportunity to consider the information contained in an “Environmental Impact Assessment “ which they had asked for previously. Officer Pearson stated that a request for an EIA for the whole Site Development Project was not made at the first planning notice stage in 2004 and that it was too late now. But at the time, the officer advice was that “an EIA was not required”. However, clarification that the regulations do not debar councillors from requesting an EIA was not given.

AWE Project to match the size of Heathrow Terminal 5

In December’s issue of the in-house magazine AWE TODAY, Bob Irvin says that

“the construction work will make AWE one of the largest construction sites in the UK - similar in scale to the Terminal 5 project at Heathrow”.

As at Heathrow, a Public Inquiry is needed for AWE developments, on size alone, if not on nuclear policy.

January 25th Planning Meeting at 6.00pm

The time of the Planning Meeting has been brought forward to 6.00pm. This time, it will be important to present objections that are tightly within the committee’s remit. Peter Burt who spoke so persuasively last time, has offered to do so again. If the opportunity occurs for more people to speak, please concentrate on planning issues.

Some Planning Objections

i) the huge multi-coloured shiny building in full view of the A340 is inappropriate in leafy Berkshire
ii) existing trees will never grow to the height of six double-decker buses to screen the huge building from view
iii) new tree planting is a waste of time and will not achieve screening it is intended to provide
iv) it appears to be an iconic eye-catching monument, completely out of keeping with the existing site or its environs
v) it would be a road safety risk - a serious distraction on an already dangerously fast, narrow road
vi) the plan is part of a project large enough to trigger a Public Inquiry, and constitutes grounds for the committee to object to this plan at this stage.

Subsidiary follow-on points:
vii) this is the wrong site on the AWE campus for such a building
viii) if this site is the only one available, the exterior of the building should be modified to present a discrete exterior that does not draw attention.

Planning Officer’s Report to Committee 

Papers for the planning committee meeting are not yet on the West Berks Website. The Agenda and Reports for this meeting will be available on 18 January 2006 at:


AWE Website

AWE information is buried deep in their Website. The Updates Site Strategy Plan is at http://www.awe.co.uk/Images/New%20Site%20dev%20plan%2002b_tcm6-4092.pdf

For Original 2002 Plan see: http://www.awe.co.uk/Images/20885%20UNC%20SD%20Plan%202000_tcm6-3308.pdf