Saturday, 20 July 2013

Aldermaston Ward LibDems: Statement on the Future of Nuclear Defence

This week the coalition government published the long-awaited 'Trident Alternatives Review'.

CND march in 1958
It is a publication of huge significance to voters and campaigners alike. The issue of nucelar weapons has long caused divisions in Berkshire, while large numbers of local residents in this area live and work in the shadow of the major AWE installations nearby.

Liberal Democrats have now taken the first step to heal those long-standing and deep divisions.

The ground-breaking paper provides the most thorough review of nuclear systems and postures the UK has ever made public and examines a full range of alternatives available - a move only made possible through the insistence of LibDems in government.

The Trident Alternatives Review makes clear that Britain's national security will not be compromised by gradual reduction of the UK's Nuclear capacity as part of the reshaping of our Armed Forces to take account of the current security environment.

AWE's Orion laser
Britain no longer needs a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year continuous-at-sea patrolling service designed to meet a threat in the Soviet Union that no longer exists. Instead we should support our international allies and contribute meaningfully to the new multilateral drive to marry arms reduction to threat reduction. This will also save billions of pounds to concentrate on more pressing domestic demands.

Announcing the review, LibDem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP, said,
"It is the right and sensible thing to do. And it could allow long-term savings to be made against current plans for like-for-like replacement.We can, at last, have an open and much more informed debate about what our nuclear weapons are for and how they should be deployed."
Liberal Democrats are leading this debate.

AWE Aldermaston Falcon Gate

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Battle For Paices Wood

Peaceful Paices Wood
On Saturday 6th June local LibDem activists met naturalists and conservationists from Berkshire's Wildlife Trust and Ornitological Society on a pleasant country walk around Paices Wood Country Park.

Paices Wood is a former gravel extraction site comprising extensive woodland, grassland and several lakes near Aldermaston, in the shadow of AWE.

Following exhaustion of commercial quarrying in the 1980s the site was restored and landscaped, however access became restricted due to increased security requirements through Youngs industrial estate after 2000.

A gravel pit at Paices Wood
The owners campaigned for a dedicated entrance to the park, and planning permission was eventually granted in September 2010, with funding from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF).

The new entrance to Paices Wood was officially opened in May 2011 by Newbury's Conservative MP Richard Benyon, ironically only weeks after ALSF was scrapped by Defra Minister Richard Benyon - a move heavily criticised by the Minerals Product Association.

An undisturbed gravel site nearby
The fund was stopped despite changes which increased the total levy by £15m/year in 2011 to more than £300m/year, having being used to channel about 7% of levy income (£10.8m from 2009 to 2011) back to communities to pay for conservation, community and other sustainability projects.

Given the recent application for new gravel extraction in the area, residents will be concerned about the loss of a vital environmental fund to mitigate problems with nothing to replace it.

Meanwhile, Paices Wood is one of nine sites under consideration by West Berkshire Council to transfer management repsonsibility to BBOWT, as the ruling Conservatives seek to cut expenditure and rein in budgets.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Local News: Re-dedicating Ourselves To Their Memory

Local LibDems joined with residents to attend the rededication service for the Woolhampton War memorial  on Saturday 29th June.

The 17ft memorial bears the names of 15 men who died from 1914-18, and 5 more who died in the 1939-45 war.

It bears the inscription "They passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice."

The octagonal cross in Doulting stone had come into disrepair and required cleaning to ensure the names weren't lost, as the parish gears up for the centenary of the outbreak of war.

The service fittingly recreated the original dedication made on 16th March 1921, when Brigadier-General Phipps Hornby gave an address.

In it he exhorted attendees to remember the names made 'immortal', but not forget the heroism of survivors who must fulfil the obligation to maintain the hard-won happiness brought by peace.

Local resident Mansell Oakes gave a similarly well-recieved speech before Rev. Becky Bevan reiterated the Blessing and the ceremony was appropriately brought to a close by Beenham bugler Simon Whitcombe with the sounding of The Reveille.

Aldermaston ward campaigner James Spackman commented,
"It's only through the memory of those who served and made sacrifices that we can understand the reasons and causes of such terrible and traumatic events. We must honour them to ensure that the promise 'Never Again' is upheld."