Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Expansion of Welsh arms factory planned

09 Jul 2024 7 minute read
BAE Glascoed. Photo by Roger Davies is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Twm Owen Local Democracy Reporter

Further expansion of manufacturing capacity at the BAE Systems arms factory in Gwent is being planned. 

The multinational firm has put forward initial plans for a new manufacturing facility on vacant land at its site at Glascoed between Pontypool and Usk. 

It has submitted an environmental impact assessment “scoping request” to Monmouthshire County Council as it “proposes to develop a new energetics manufacturing facility on vacant land within the eastern part of the existing BAE Glascoed site”. 

An environmental impact assessment is intended to consider all the consequences, good and bad, of a particular planning application on the environment. The council, or the Welsh Government, could require an environmental impact assessment or it could be decided one isn’t required for the application. 

“Sensitive nature”

There are no further details related to the application available on Monmouthshire council’s planning website and the application is being considered. 

Previously planning applications for the site have been accompanied by statements, from the council, which state due to the “sensitive nature of the site, full details of the application can only be viewed by appointment” at County Hall and that no information can be copied, retained or published. 

In January this year it came to light work on a new bomb-making building at the factory had started without planning permission and in April there was an explosion at the site.

Permission

Work on the new bomb-making building at the 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 – nearly a month after 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.

Gaza conflict

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 year 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. 

Photo by hosny salah from Pixabay

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”.

‘Munitions assembly’

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.” 

“Critical”

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.” 

Explosion

Home Secretary James Cleverly refused to comment on speculation around an unexplained explosion at the BAE Systems plant.

The Glascoed site. Image: Google

Nation.Cymru reported that Glascoed was rocked by an explosion, which local residents reported as causing the ground to shake, on April 17.

In May, the Financial Times reported European intelligence agencies have warned Russia is plotting violent acts of sabotage across the continent and elsewhere.

It reported: “Questions have been raised, for instance, over a so-far unexplained explosion at BAE Systems’ munitions factory in Wales that supplies shells used by Ukraine.”

Russian interest

Mr Cleverly on a general election campaign visit to Usk – the closest town to the factory that dates back to the build up to the Second World War – was asked what credibility he gave to speculation Russia or Russian interests could be linked to the explosion.

The Home Secretary who has responsibility for national security and oversight of Britain’s intelligence services, said while he wouldn’t comment on the explosion he said the UK is a target for “hostile states”.

He said: “I’m not going to speculate about that particular incident.

“The general point is that we know the UK is being targeted by hostile states. I’m sure your readers will understand that I’m not going to go into details about UK security but we know that we are targeted.

“We know that we are a country Putin hates because of our relentless support for Ukraine in its self-defence, we do have very robust arrangements to protect ourselves against state aggression from wherever it might come.”

“Disappointing”

He added: “These are general points but I’m not going to speak about specific incidents. I’m certainly not going to comment on speculation which I know is a little bit disappointing but obviously you’ll understand why.”

No-one was injured in the explosion and at the time Monmouth MP David Davies said: “I understand it was an explosion that happened in a remote part of the site that had been set aside to take apart shells and this was being done by remote control.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
5 days ago

Welsh Arms Factory? English arms factory in Wales!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 days ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

Glasgow on the tin…Aussie money…Macquarie…now Last Mile…are they ‘connected’ with Bute…?

John James
John James
3 days ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

No a Welsh factory producing arms to stop a brutal imperialist dictator.

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 days ago

This is what we will continue to get for as long as the “big decisions” are taken in London. Having a compliant regime in the Bay makes matters even worse as they see Glascoed as a +ve on their jobs score sheet, and probably don’t give a toss who buys war materials from BAE, GenDynamics or any other peddler who brings jobs to Wales.

John James
John James
3 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Welsh people must do our bit to keep the peace in Europe. Sadly this means making weapons. Today Putin bombed another hospital. Only brute force can stop him.

Garycymru
Garycymru
5 days ago

Isn’t it strange that the British government keeps it’s biggest military targets in the countries it thinks the least of??
Come on people of Wales, are you not seeing the big picture?
As it stands, one small incident at this factory, with a dodgier past than most Tory MP’s, could remove 5 villages from the map.

John James
John James
3 days ago
Reply to  Garycymru

This factory in not so big employing only 50 people. The Submarines in Scotland are based on geography not politics and have created a lot of jobs.

Riki
Riki
3 days ago

Well, that’ll make us a target for Russia, bringing us into line with England. As per their plan!!! They know that Russia said they’d leave Wales and Scotland alone should anything happen. But putting important military infrastructure in Wales makes us a target! This is why defensive alliances are far worse than they are worth, they are what causes major wars. It sets of a chain reaction, have we learnt nothing?

John James
John James
3 days ago
Reply to  Riki

Only a very dim person would believe anything said by Russia.. We in Wales must do our duty. We are not a weak cowardly people hiding under the skirt of England.

Riki
Riki
3 days ago
Reply to  John James

And have the English leaders proven their truthful nature to you?!

Riki
Riki
3 days ago
Reply to  John James

As for hiding, the English won’t allow that ever, we will be pushed right into the fray. As we have always been! Forever fighting for the Anglo cause, a cause that goes against our own.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.