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info below from Womenwith Hill Women's Peace Camp
c/o 8 Somerville Terrace, Otley LS1 1HS
9th March 2001

please can you approach your own constituency MP re the following -

US Department of Defense Base, Menwith Hill (N Yorkshire)


[copy of letter sent to their constituency MP by AL & HJ]

"Although Menworth Hill may not be in your constituency, it affects all the people living here. We should be grateful if you, our constituency MP, could bring to the attention of the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt. Hon. Mr Geoff Hoon MP, our concern about the USA's current developments at Menwith Hill.

There is a growing demand for a Public Inquiry into the USA's National Missile Defense System proposals for Menwith Hill. Planning law empowers Mr Hoon, under certain circumstances, to inaugurate a Public Inquiry. We believe that the criteria enabling him to do so have now been established, viz:

REF: PLANNING APPLICATION 6.500.164.A CROWND for 2 battery-charging houses connected to the 'Jetsams' generators, on behalf of the United States' Department of Defense, Menwith Hill Station, submitted to the Harrogate Borough Council Planning Department in December 2000:

We were two of the c200 people who made representations about this planning application & who insisted that the matter be subjected to a Public Inquiry

This week we have been notified that the Borough Council has offered no objections to the plans.

We are disatisfied with the inadequate public consultation & undemocratic decision-making procedure which has just taken place.

These battery chargers are required for the electricity supply to the newly installed electronic equipment (which has to run on batteries) in Menwith hill's Operations. The base is currently undergoing upgrading & expansion to equip it for its role in the United States' programme of National Missile Defense (NMD), dubbed 'STAR WARS'.

The ground-based downlinks for the preliminary test stages of the USA's Space Based Infra Red System (SBIRS), a component of NMD, have already been constructed at Menwith Hill. They await the satellite launches.

Widespread internationa concern has been expressed about the implications of NMD - that it will provide an anti-missile 'shield' for the continental USA, from behind which it will be able to wage war on other nations with impunity: that the consequence will initiate a new 'arms race': that statons such as Menwith Hill, located outside the USA, will be the vulnerable targets for retaliatory attacks. Such a possibility exposes to danger the people living in the Harogate Borough Council area & beyond.

Parliament has not yet had the opportunity to consider the implications of NMD, nor has approval of the United Kingdom Government been sought for the USA's SBIRS installations.

When the plans for SBIRS were approved by the Harrogate Area no.1 Planning sub-Committee in 1997, neither the Council members, the media nor the public, were aware of the 'Star Wars' significance of the proposals. Councillors can no longer be ignorant of the purpose of the plans for Menwith Hill; there ahs been a considerable volume of publicity.

We are well aware that the Planning Law (Circular 18/84: Crown Land...) imposes severe restrictions on the Harrogate Borough Council, giving it very limited powers of control over expansion developments at Menwith Hill, but it is not totally powerless: Section 4 (21) states: '...where strong objections are received to a development proposal which has not been notified to the [Department of the Environment, Transport & the Regions], it must be for the local planning authority to weigh up these objections & decide whether or not they should be supported. But where they decide not to opppose the development, they should nevertheless bring the objections to the notice of the Developing Department. Where he Developing Department consider that the substance of the objections is such that it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to decide whether the development should proceed, the Developing Department will so inform the [DOE, T & R] who may, after consultation with the parties, arrange for a non-statutory public inquiry.'

Harrogate Planning Authority professed to consider the application 'significant', consequently it was advertised & members of the public were invited to submit objections:

a)  The period for making the objections was timetabled for December 22nd 2000 to January 12th 2001. Anne Lee's telephone request to the planing Office for an extension, to allow for potential objectors to be contacted over the 'dead' Christmas/New Year period, was refuesd. It is evident that manymore objections would have been submitted had more time been allowed.

b)  The DECISION to 'offer No objections' to the planning application was NOT made by the ELECTED COUNCILLORS, but by Area Planning Officer, Denis Harling, under 'delegated leglisation'. This was endorsed by the Chief Planing Officer, C F Brown, on 22nd February 2001. This means that the decision to approve the plans was made by the same person who advertised the application & received the objections! Although it is apparent that the decision was a foregone concluson, an interval of 8 weeks was allowed to pass(to suggest that the application was put to the Planning Committee Meeting?) before objectors were notified that the COUNCIL had approved the plans. Democracy was not even seen to be done. It was a sham.

c)  The objectors, who made the effort to write, believed that their objections would be considered by the Planing sub-Committee before being put to the full Council meeting.

d)  The Planning Officer dismissed the objections on the grounds that most of them were based on 'inaccurate information'. He presented no evidence to verify this assertation.

e)  The letters of objection were copied and submitted to the 'Developing Department' in accordance with Section 4(21) of Circular 18/84. They have been sent to Mr Howard Taylor, Ministr of Defence Land Agent, North Yorkshire. Howard Taylor is not, however, the 'Developing Department'; he is merely the conduit for the Ministry of Defence acting on behalf of the United States Department of Defense. In December 2000, the plans were submitted with a request from Howard Taylor that the planning procedure be bypassed! By accident, we discovered this letter in a different file.

Menwith Hill's activities are not only illegal, they threaten the safety of the local population. We have no confidence that the local authority is acting in our best interests. The lack of public scrutiny means that they can flout all democratic procedure. A Public Inquiry which would allow the people to express their concerns about 'Star Wars' is a priority.

Anne Lee & Helen John

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