Bomb making building being built at Welsh arms factory without planning permission
Twm Owen Local Democracy Reporter
Work on a new bomb-making building at a controversial Welsh arms factory was started more than six months ago without planning permission.
The oversight only came to light after the planning application form was published this week – nearly a month since weapons manufacturer BAE Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited put in an application for planning permission for the building, which could lead to 50 new jobs.
The site at Glascoed, near Pontypool, was originally developed in 1938 as a bomb-filling factory for the Royal Navy in the run-up to World War Two, and has continued to supply ammunition to UK troops since it was privatised by the Thatcher government in the 1980s.
But planning applications for new developments at the factory – which earlier this week was picketed by peace protesters opposed to arms sales to Israel following the start of the conflict in Gaza – aren’t published in the usual way on Monmouthshire County Council’s dedicated planning website.
Instead members of the public have to book an appointment, through the council planning department, to see the plans, and aren’t allowed to make any copies or publish any of the plans “due to the sensitive nature of the site”.
However the latest application, for a “building to house munitions assembly” and to create “surrounding blast mounds” was submitted on December 1 without any documents accompanying it on the council’s website or any explanation for the lack of additional information or even the application form.
Monmouthshire council published the application form, after being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service – this reveals how work has already started on the new development in May last year. It appears council planners have been aware of the development since at least June 15 when the arms firm sought “pre-application advice”.
The work is described, on the form, as “Construction of a building to house munitions assembly, extraction of material from ‘borrow pits’ for construction of surrounding blast mounds” proposed for part of the site last used for “munitions assembly” and as railway sidings.
The form asks if work has already started, and the “yes” box has been ticked and where the applicant is asked when work started it is stated “15/05/2023”. The form also asks if work has been completed and the “no” box has been ticked.
The application form states the development could lead to 50 new full-time jobs at the site and also refers to other plans that aren’t published online including a flood risk assessment and “sensitive” information about “storage of hazardous substances”.
The application was spotted by local resident Charlotte Fleming who said she was concerned at the lack of information available – and that a deadline for members of the public to comment was due to close on Wednesday, January 10.
“I have an email alert for planning applications and this came up but it is almost pointless having it up on the website with such little information,” said Ms Fleming.”
“My concern is it isn’t democratic and the planning system is supposed to be. This doesn’t seem to be transparent.”
‘In advance of obtaining planning permission’
A BAE Systems’ spokesperson said: “We can confirm a full public consultation has been completed as part of a submitted planning application for a new production facility at Glascoed. This facility will supply essential defence stocks required by the UK Ministry of Defence.
“We have been clear in our planning application that initial work on this critical facility has begun in advance of obtaining planning permission.”
Monmouthshire County Councillor Tony Kear, whose Usk and Llanbadoc ward includes the Glascoed site, said he had been contacted by a resident concerned about the lack of information around the application.
The Conservative councillor said it was also raised at the Llanbadoc Community Council meeting where members noted applications for the site are usually published with a note explaining that plans are only available to view by appointment.
After being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service Monmouthshire County Council updated its website with the standard statement explaining the process around applications at Glascoed, it also said it would extend the consultation period.
A council spokesman said: “The local planning authority will also allow additional time for the consultation period, which will be extended until January 24.”
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