High-velocity missiles will be sited on the roof of a building in Bow during the Olympic Games despite protests from local people, the Government announced today.
The missiles on the top of the Lexington Building in Fairfield Road, Bow, will be part of a “multi-layered air security plan” designed to deter terrorists during the Olympic Games.
Protesters have promised demonstrations will continue. Lynne Chamberlain of South London Against Missiles (SLAM) and Bexley and Greenwich Trade Council said: “Believe you me we aren’t letting things lie down. We will be on the streets leafleting this Saturday in the local area and will try to stop traffic in Greenwich on July 20 with help from Greenwich University students. We live in a democracy. This is a potential threat, people are very upset and disgruntled and it is disgusting how we are being ignored.”
The decision to site the missiles in Bow comes only a few days after dozens of people marched in protest in the area on Saturday calling on the Ministry of Defence to halt the controversial plans. The Lexington is one of three Grade II listed renovated residential buildings in the gated community on the former site of the famous Bryant and May matches factory. Lexington is joined to the Manhattan building, both of which date back to 1911 when the factory site was redeveloped.
Bow Quarter resident Anja McLoughlin, 27, said: “We found out about the missiles the very last weekend in April. The MoD shoved a pamphlet through our door on a Friday night and said your building has been chosen, as if we were lucky to have been chosen as being one of the sites for putting the missiles on the roof.”
“In the pamphlet they set out a list of questions with answers provided. One of the questions was would this make us the target for terrorists? It had an answer below it that said no, this will not make you a target for terrorists. We were given a contact number to call if we had any questions but this was a Friday night so the office was closed the whole weekend.”
“So far there have been about five or six meetings to my knowledge where the MoD were asked to have a spokesperson attend and every time they have refused. They were doing tests, putting test missiles up on the building the following week. The following week they said that if anyone had any questions, we will be having a residents meeting with the MoD at the end of May but they were already doing tests at the start of May.”
“I don’t know how safe it will be if missiles come tumbling down. I don’t have insurance, we haven’t been offered any compensation… It’s a little worrying. Bow Quarter management were asked if they are receiving any payments and they have said that they are getting a nominal fee for renting out the space to the MoD. They won’t say how much but just that they are renting out the space for a nominal fee.”
“A lot of people who live there have jobs in the media and a local politician lives there also. That’s why you have heard a lot about this site when you haven’t heard so much about the other sites. I have been told there will be 10 army personnel at Bow Quarter 24 hours a day up to a month after the Para Olympics have been concluded. I don’t think I can do anything about it and I feel that a lot of people feel the same way.”
Residents near one of the other sites, in Leytonstone, have already begun a court action against the Ministry which is to be heard in the High Court next Monday.
Chris Nineham of stoptheolympicmissiles.org said today: “Obviously people are very angry and a bit worried. This is a crazy decision and puts people’s lives at risk for no increase in security. It is just irresponsible and stupid of the MoD. People are obviously very upset about it.”
He added: “The campaign will continue though. We have protests coming up, our online petition will continue and a pending court case going to court on Monday. We will be contesting this up until the wire so to speak as it’s extremely dangerous for the community.”
Amy O’Donoughue, 24, a Tower Hamlets resident and member of the campaign said: “The concern in the community is huge. But that’s not what the Ministry of Defence are saying, they think people don’t care.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said today that despite a “small number of activists”, the plans would still go ahead.
In a statement, he said: “We have undertaken a wide programme of engagement with the communities affected, involving relevant local authorities, landowners, MPs, council leaders, and community meetings.
“These have shown that, while people understandably have questions and concerns which we have sought to answer, broadly speaking communities are supportive of our work.”
The MOD has also confirmed plans to use helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, which will be moored on the River Thames.
Over 100 sites were originally considered as locations for the ground to air missiles. The other five sites are:
- Fred Wigg Tower, Montague Road Estate, Waltham Forest – high-velocity missile
- Blackheath Common, Blackheath (Lewisham/Greenwich) – rapier missiles
- William Girling Reservoir, Lea Valley Reservoir Chain, Enfield – rapier missiles
- Oxleas Meadow, Shooters Hill, Greenwich/Woolwich – rapier missiles
- Barn Hill, Netherhouse Farm, Epping Forest – rapier missiles.
By Claire Shaw and Lauren Buljubasic