I went to the West Berkshire planning meeting this evening where the fate of AWEs Project Hydrus was decided upon.
The were a few other protesters, we had some banners, and though it rained it was still a nice evening. When the meeting was due to start we went in to listen. Below are my notes from the meeting, its just an impression of what was said, not word for word accurate. My comments in italics.
The Council had received 1331 letters of objection, which they ignored completely. They only seemed concerned with an objection from English Heritage, and I expect will do some landscaping to Hydrus won't be seen from nearby heritage property.
Dr Rebecca Johnson spoke passionately about there being no need for Hydrus. It circumvents nuclear non proliferation treaty. Hydrodynamics facility is a fire risk. Exploding volatile substances is an appalling safety risk. MOD and AWE won't give a proper assessment so you Cllrs must refer back to a full inquiry.
Cllr Tim Metcalf Conservative: no planning reasons to object. Fire risk not justifiable.
Harvey Tadman spoke of sustainability for future generations.
Cllr Metcalf said not within remit.
Perhaps the remit needs to be changed if they can't consider sustainability.
Speaking For AWE
This is the 8th and final application of the project that includes Orion & Gemini. He said there were no technical objections or objections from local communities! LIAR
Cllr Law Conservative; asked what are risks. And what hydronymics meant. It was to verify effectiveness of warheads. H&s risks designed out but there are hazardous materials.
Cllr asked are they radioactive elements? Yes.
Cllr Law ; asked if independent regulators were sufficient. Yes a full safety case is made to them, they are fully cleared and can ask questions.
Cllr Linden Conservative; asked if fire service procedures had unhindered access. We regret fire in Aug but we think procedures worked well. NOT
Independent investigation is proceeding so can't give details.
Cllr Webb Conservative; Current facilities were put together 50s, these buildings will be safer.
Cllr Mollie Lock Liberal Democrat; people can only object on planning grounds.
David Pearson; AWE has a long established use. We can't consider use.
Cllr Lonk; We can approve or refuse application, no link to inquiry in law.
Chair Cllr Brian Bedwell Calcot Conservative. Correct this is not in our remit
Cllr Macro Liberal Democrat; this could go to a planning public inquiry.
David if we refused application it could go to inquiry. Called in by sec of state Chair: so plan matters only.
Cllr Irene Neil Conservative; Regulators of site are experts, we are not. It would be safer so I recommend it passes.
Cllr; happy to second.
Cllr Lock; If it fails AWE would appeal.
Cllr Macro; Would not support application due to proximity to populated area. Planning point para 6.8 additional construction jobs & employment opportunities. You could say this about any project.
Hazel Evans said; There will be 5 years employment which is a lengthy construction period.
Cllr Tim; regarding planning, AWE looks ugly anyway, its a carbuncle so one more ugly building wont make any difference. So votes for it.
In the vote only Cllr Marco objected, all other Cllrs voted for it.
I was amazed that these elected Cllrs feel happy to ignore thousands of residents who objected, and the recent news about the fire that AWE kept hidden.
I was interviewed by BBC Radio Berkshire after and made the points written above. How can Cllrs ignore public opinion, where is democracy?
West Berks Council has:
Conservative - 36 seats
Liberal Democrat - 15 seats
so there is no opposition, a bit of a one party state.
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