8:00am Wednesday 2nd May 2012
By Clare Hardy
A FARM owner who was refused permission for the country’s largest solar park has defended his decision to let the military use the land as a missile base for the Olympic Games.
Netherhouse Farm in Waltham Abbey is one of six sites around London shortlisted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide silos for ground-to-air Rapier missiles.
The missiles have a range of 10km and would be used to shoot down terrorists attempting a 9/11 style airborne attack on Olympic venues.
Farm owner Tommy Tomkins has angered his neighbours in the past with a succession of plans for the site in Sewardstone Road, including a housing estate and a 20 acre solar energy park, and the latest plans have prompted fears that they themselves could become a terrorist target.
Debbie Braxton, 37, of Sewardstone Road, said: “I have two kids, aged four and 11, and I don’t want them to be around that kind of thing.
“Residents need to understand what the risks are. If they shoot a plane out of the sky, where’s the debris going to land?
“I understand they want to protect London, but they’re putting other people at risk as a result.”
Jean Grant, 65, also of Sewardstone Road, said: “Something has to be put in place, but I think this would be quite an easy target to get to if someone wanted to make a point.”
Lieutenant Colonel Brian Farley of the MoD conceded that there would be a danger to the public from debris if a plane was shot down, and that the missile base could be a target for terrorists.
“There is a risk that could happen,” he added.
“But we hope what we’re doing is deterring people from even thinking of committing an attack from the air.
“We are talking about a system of last resort.”
Mr Tomkins denied that he invited the military to use his farm, and said that he would receive no fee from them.
“Not too long ago, they approached me,” he added.
“I had discussions and said ‘of course you can use it’, for national security. To me that’s very important.
“I own the land and I’ve not got any problem with it. Why would I not let them use it? It’s common sense.
“National security goes in front of local residents.”
A final decision on the base will be made after military exercises using dummy missiles, which is due to get underway today (Wednesday).
People living near the site have been invited by the MoD to inspect the missile system at the farm at 4pm on Friday.
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