A resident of the private housing complex in Bow, which the Ministry of Defence plans to use as a missile base during the Olympics, says he was asked to leave his property after taking legal action against his housing management.
Speaking exclusively with East London Lines, journalist Brian Whelan, 28, said he has been asked by his private landlord at Bow Quarter to vacate his property on July 27, the date of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
Whelan’s landlord has denied via twitter that he is being forced to leave his property, a position she has re-affirmed in the Evening Standard.
Whelan said: “I’ve put some pressure on the MoD but only because they’ve failed to even handle this in the most basic polite way. They failed to engage, failed to do anything. I have to find a new home and that happens on the first day of the Olympics. That is a very unusual coincidence.”
It was confirmed this week by the MoD that the Lexington Water Tower is a possible site for High Velocity Missiles during the games, which will be guarded by military 24 hours a day. The location is very close to the Olympic Park, which can be seen clearly from the flat roof of the Lexington Water Tower.
Whelan has taken legal action against the housing management company, Little Apple Holdings. He said: “At present I’ve instructed Jules Carey from Tuckers, who is a top human rights lawyer, to approach the solicitors acting on behalf of Little Apple Holdings…We’re legally challenging on what grounds they’re putting missiles on our roof…how the MoD came to this arrangement with the property management company, why we weren’t consulted and what the legal basis is to create a military barracks in a private residence.”
Little Apple Holdings, told the Guardian on Monday “the decision to give the army roof access was ‘an issue of national security, not of commercial gain”.
Mr Whelan does not agree that Bow Quarter’s location is good enough justification for the plans: “It was announced in 2005 that we were to get the Olympics. I’ve watched them build the park; it looks great. They didn’t decide to host the swimming event in Bow Quarter’s pool – we’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool where we live. They didn’t decide let’s have the opening ceremony in the bar…Why is our roof a missile launching site? They had five years to plan this.”
Whelan has concerns about the safety of launching missiles from the Lexington Water Tower, he said: “The tower they’re putting it on top of is an old brick tower that was built as part of a matchstick factory. By their nature, matchstick factories’ roofs blow out if there’s an explosion, rather than containing the blast…they’ve [the missiles] got a range of 5km from the roof of the building. I’m not sure what you’re going to shoot down within 5km of the building. If you go five 5km say to the east you reach Dagenham, there’s housing non-stop the entire way. The other direction you’re heading back towards central London, Aldgate. You go South, Greenwich. There’s no direction it’s safe to fire in. In every direction it’s housing wall to wall.”
Whelan said he first heard about the plans when he received an MoD leaflet at his apartment, which he later uploaded to his blog. There had been an opportunity for the residents to meet officers at the site on Saturday but Whelan said that a MoD spokesperson had visited the complex yesterday. Filming the conversation, Whelan asked him why the residents, including a Labour Councillor, had not been consulted. The spokesperson told him that the local authority had been consulted but was unable to name it when asked.
External YouTube video:Video by Brian Whelan from http://brianwhelan.net/uploaded to YouTube.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has criticised the lack of prior consultation with Bow Quarter residents. She said: “The Secretary of State for the MoD needs to look at this as a matter of urgency and answer the grave concerns that my constituents and I have about this proposal.”
Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East spoke to East London Lines about one of the other possible Olympic missile sites on Blackheath. She said: “I cannot say I like the idea of missiles on Blackheath but if the military and security experts think that it is necessary to have a last line of defence to deal with all eventualities, those defence systems will have to go somewhere.”
Full interview with Brian Whelan