Residents fighting plans to position surface-to-air missiles on high-rise buildings around London have criticised the Ministry of Defence for pressing ahead with the deployment.
The government announced today that the defence systems will be in place by mid-July, despite a potential legal challenge from a group of East London residents who do not want the systems placed on the roof of their tower block home.
The MoD wants to place the Rapier missile systems on buildings to prevent terrorists targeting Olympic sites. The defence systems are set to be positioned at sites in Bow, Epping Forest, Greenwich, the William Girling Reservoir and Blackheath Common.
They are also set to be placed on the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone, where residents plan to mount a legal challenge.
Brian Whelan, a journalist and former resident of Lexington Building in Bow - one of the buildings earmarked for the military deployment - told Yahoo! News: “Today's decision shows the true arrogance of the MoD, who continue to push their ill-conceived plans with no consideration for the communities affected.
“Last week we saw hundreds of Bow residents take to the streets to voice their opposition and a petition with over a 1,000 signatures was also delivered to the MoD.
“For the last two months our number one demand has been that the MoD come forward and explain what purpose these missiles will serve as part of defence plans With a range of just 5km they seem to be entirely unfit for purpose. The Olympic Games should not be used as an excuse to showcase military hardware and push through draconian measures.”
Speaking before the challenge, solicitor Martin Howe, who is representing the Fred Wigg Tower group, said: “It is incredible that the MOD think it acceptable to present women, children and men living in a block of flats in a densely populated residential area of East London with the fait accompli of having a live high explosive missile salvo above their heads whilst they go about their daily chores and whilst they sleep at night.
“The risk of accidental explosion or indeed incoming terrorist attack on the block of flats is now a real issue.”
But Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said today: “Ground-based air defence systems will form just one part of a comprehensive, multi-layered air security plan which, I believe, will provide both reassurance and a powerful deterrent."
Home Secretary Theresa May added: “This is the biggest sporting event in the world, and with that comes the huge responsibility to deliver it safely and securely. We are working to a robust safety and security strategy and we will leave nothing to chance.”