Anti-nuclear campaigners celebrated another small victory on 23 November, as the West Berkshire Eastern Area Planning Committee voted to defer a decision on whether to support AWE Aldermaston's full planning notice for the controversial Orion laser facility (see PN2458).
The catalyst for the proposal to defer was the lack of adherence to agreed procedure, with not all councillors having received vital environmental information relating to the development in advance of the meeting. During the planning hearing, councillors asserted that the Ministry of Defence were effectively wasting the committee's time by failing to provide them with the information necessary to make a decision.
Following a hearing in March this year with reference to a related planning notice from AWE, the planning authority wrote to the MoD requesting a Comprehensive Environment Statement in respect of all the proposals in the Site Development Strategy Plan as published by AWE in 2002. This followed lobbying on the issue by local and national anti-nuclear campaigners. It was this information that AWE and the MoD failed to deliver to all councillors in time.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, a representative of Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp(aign) said: “Obviously we are pleased that the decision has been deferred for now. Any developments which facilitate the development or maintenance of weapons of mass destruction should be opposed. While the process may be being played out in a village hall by parish councillors, the issue at stake is one of national importance.”
Campaigners believe the developments at AWE are linked to the issue of Trident replacement.
The case continues...
No precise timescale was set for when the matter would come before the committee again, though it seems certain that it won't be until the new year. Campaigners said they would be monitoring the process carefully.
According to industry reports, a German company, MW Zander, has been awarded the #20m contract to build Orion, with a start date of August 2005, and it is reported that preparatory work has been taking place on the site.