BUILDING 15,000 homes in Grazeley would not be safe and “could have an adverse impact on the nation’s security”.

That is according to the Ministry of Defence, which has written an eight-page objection to plans for a garden town in Grazeley.

It objected after the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) around nuclear weapons factory AWE Burghfield was extended to cover most of the site that had been earmarked for the new homes.

According to the Office for Nuclear Regulation, anyone living in the zone can be affected by a “reasonably foreseeable” radiation emergency.

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In its letter, the MOD states there would be “real risks” for people living in the 15,000 homes because it would be “challenging” to evacuate or shelter all of them quickly during a radiation emergency.

The letter states: “The proposed introduction of 15,000 dwellings within about 1,600 metres (at its nearest point) is directly contrary to safety and emergency planning advice and practice, in light of the DEPZ.

“In addition, it could have an adverse impact on the nation’s security by constraining both the current and future operation of AWE Burghfield.”

The MOD is concerned AWE Burghfield would be required to “restrict operations” if thousands of homes are built nearby and pay for more expensive safety measures or relocate some facilities.

It says AWE Burghfield has “unique national strategic importance” because it is the only place in the UK that can decommission old warheads and build and maintain new ones.

The letter states: “It may also affect the ability of the Office for Nuclear Regulation to licence activities without changes to the nature and amount of materials held on site, which would directly impact the ability to assemble, maintain, and decommission the necessary amounts of warheads for defence resilience.”

It also says the MOD “does not consider that such fundamental problems are solvable”.

The people in charge of the nuclear warhead factory were ordered to review safety measures and emergency preparations after the government introduced the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2019.

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They then prepared a report which recommended that West Berkshire Council extend the DEPZ, even though the factory has not made significant changes to its day-to-day operations or started using different nuclear materials.

West Berkshire Council agreed to extend the zone when it revised the Off-Site Emergency Plan for AWE Burghfield.

The council had been involved in plans for the Grazeley garden town, but it pulled out after the MOD objected to the project.

Wokingham Borough Council, which was leading the project, has not scrapped it yet. But the council said it is now “looking at alternatives”.

Reading Borough Council, which was also involved, has not abandoned the scheme, but says it “cannot be delivered at this time” without the support of the other two councils.

In 2019, the government announced a £3.7 million fund for the Grazeley development and four other “garden towns”, that were expected to provide 64,000 homes across England.

But the following year, the government rejected a bid for £250 million to support the Grazeley project.

The MOD accepts that “significant work” has gone into plans for the Grazeley garden town but says the councils knew the DEPZ could have been extended to cover the site.