23rd June 2009
The Bro Emlyn for Peace and Justice group claims that poor advertising and lack of signs resulted in a low attendance by the public at a Welsh Assembly Government consultation event in Cardigan on Saturday 20th June.
The 5 hour “drop-in” public consultation held at the Small World Theatre was the 5th of 6 organised in the area by the Welsh Assembly Government to provide the public with information about the creation of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) testing zone covering 500 square miles of West Wales.
The event was picketed by a solitary member of BEPJ who stood silently outside dressed as the “Grim Reaper” and wearing a sign reading “Death Flies Unmanned”. Jeremy Clulow stood for 3½ hours handing out leaflets claiming that the fly zone would lead to “The militarization of West Wales”.
BEPJ claim that the testing zone, which would stretch from Aberporth in the west to the MOD military training area at Mynydd Epynt (near Sennybridge) 35 miles to the east, is being presented to the public as a civilian project, when it’s use will mainly be military. Harry Rogers of the group stated:
“The Welsh Assembly have no idea whether or not research at Parc Aberporth will be military, yet in their consultation they are emphasising the civilian uses of UAV’s. Given that 80 per cent of QinetQ’s turnover is military-related, plus the majority of all UAV research worldwide is military, we think it most likely that military research will predominate. Bear in mind also that the Ministry of Defence will have the right to use the zone, so they will be further adding to the military component.
“The Welsh Assembly also claims that the development of Parc Aberporth will bring hundreds of high tech jobs to West Wales. In 2004 the Welsh Development Agency stated that 230 jobs would be created at Parc Aberport ‘in the short term’. The latest figures are that 18 people are employed at Parc Aberporth. Only 10 of them are local”
Mr Rogers was also critical of the way in which the consultation events were advertised and believes it resulted in a low public attendance:
“Our member stood outside for 3½ hours of the 5 hour consultation period and less than 30 people came to the event. In total there could not have been more than 40 visitors. There were no posters, no direction signs, no leafleting of the town, nothing on the day to indicate that this public event was being held. From what I am told, this was also the case with the previous 5 events in Aberporth, Llanwrtyd Wells, Tregaron, Newcastle Emlyn and Aberaeron.
“The legitimacy of the whole consultation process I believe must be called into doubt. Given the resources available to the Welsh Assembly, and the importance of the issues involved, this lack of communication is inexcusable. We will be contacting the The Civil Aviation Authority – the body making the final decision over the fly zone – to make them aware of the lack of effort made to attract the public to the events.”
The group was also unhappy with conditions laid down prior to a joint meeting between Amnesty International and WAG representatives after the Cardigan event.
“Any BEPJ member wishing to attend the meeting was required to submit their name and any question they wished to ask. The press were to be excluded and voice recording not allowed. The Welsh Assembly are clearly trying to control the flow of information for the duration of the consultation period. This is a game we simply won’t play because believe the press and public should be given all the facts on the record, not just a selection chosen by WAG”.