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As West Berkshire District Council planning committee unanimously accepted the Ministry of Defence's proposal to build a state of the art laser facility at AWE Aldermaston, campaigners resolved to stop the development from going ahead.

At a meeting on 23 June, the planning committee, meeting in a community hall in Thatcham, agreed not to raise any objections to Aldermaston's plans to build a new laser, which forms a key part in a development plan to build the next generation of nuclear weapons at AWE Aldermaston.

The meeting, heard objections from representatives of the local Nuclear Awareness Group, Aldermaston Women's Peace Campaign (AWPC), the Nuclear Information Service and a local resident.

The committee had also received over 300 written objections, a petition signed by over 500 people - including local residents. However, these objections - including one signed by at least 30 people from the Old Stock Farm travellers site, less than 500 metres from the site of the proposed laser - appear to have been ignored, including by a local ward councillor who claimed that there had been no local objectors.

"The committee appeared to have few concerns about this development, beyond questioning the size of the building, and whether it could be hidden from view by some additional landscaping," AWPC commented, "We're not talking about building a conservatory here: this development has serious implications for both the environment and the local community." [1]

The committee declined to use their powers under Department of the Environment Circular 18/84, [2] which would have allowed them to refer the NOPD back to the Ministry of Defence, and may have resulted the establishment of a public inquiry by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions [3].

"This NOPD has implications which go way beyond the scope and the life-span of this committee," said AWPC," West Berkshire has effectively given the go-ahead to the development of new nuclear weapons at Aldermaston - even before a decision to go ahead with a new nuclear weapons system has been debated in parliament".

AWPC will continue to oppose the new developments,"If we are unable to stop these developments through the planning and parliamentary processes, then we will call on other objectors to join us in non-violent action to "Block the Builders", and stop any construction work on the new laser building".