The Fred Wigg Tower missiles

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Much of the discussion at Saturday’s protest concerned the pending High Court case between Harrow Community Support (HCS) and the Ministry of Defence.  HCS is the residents’ association for the people who live in the 117 flats of Fred Wigg Tower, a block of council housing in Leytonstone.

The MOD plans to station a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) missile systems on the roof of the tower, which was damaged in a fire as recently as December. (It’s not the only missiles site where the physical foundations have recently been weakened – Fairfields Road was struck by lightning just a month ago). 

Even if the missiles are never fired, having a missile battery on your roof leads to an unwelcome degree of increased security. Soldiers have to guard the site 24 hours a day while the flats are to be patrolled by armed police with further police stationed outside in the streets. (The friend who wrote to me “Nothing wrong with missiles being situated on top of a block of flats. The problem is that they aren’t under workers control” is right, in his way, but having all these police around can hardly be adding to any resident’s feeling of control, collective or otherwise.)

The residents’ action is being launched by their housing association rather than individuals – hopefully this will deter the council from launching the pre-emptive eviction procedure that was used in an attempt to silence Brian Whelan of the Bow Quarter site.

The challenge is made on the grounds that the residents were not consulted at all about the plans to place explosive missiles on the roof of their home; that no assessment has been carried out under the Equality Act to comply with the MOD’s Public Sector Equality Duty; and that the siting of missiles above the heads of the residents is a breach of their human rights and in particular their right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and their right to peaceful enjoyment of their homes under Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR.

I understand that the Ministry of Defence has not yet filed its defence to the claim, so it will be interesting to see how they approach the case. The courts have tended to insit that the equality duty is substantive rather than procedural (i.e. the failure to prepare an impact assessment, by itself, won’t result in a successful review), but what is striking is the lack of consultation.

The London Olympic bid suceeded in 2005. If the missiles are needed at all, then nothing in the past 12 months has made their need more pressing; even a High Court judge may well accept that residents had a right to know they were being considered, and that there should have been some discussion with them of the potential effect of the missiles (eg what damage will the missiles do to the block if fired?) and a contingency plan – to include temporary rehousing (the Olympics  will only last 3 weeks) for residents who objected to the missiles…

There will be a protest against the missiles at 9.30am on Monday 9 July (i.e. before the hearing starts), outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

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