Tenants launch legal action to stop missiles being put on roof for Olympics

By Owen Bowcott

Council tenants in east London have launched a legal action to stop the Ministry of Defence stationing surface-to-air missiles on the roof of their tower block during the Olympics.

Solicitors instructed by the residents’ association at the Fred Wigg Tower in Leytonstone have formally lodged objections to plans for the missile battery to be staffed 24 hours a day while the flats are subject to armed police patrols.

The association is seeking an injunction preventing the ground-based air defence system being deployed above the heads of families living in the block’s 117 flats.

Lawyers from Howe & Co are also applying for judicial review of the plan – which ministers have not yet authorised – on the grounds that the residents’ human rights have been breached because they were not consulted about the proposals.

The MoD has submitted advice on how to deploy anti-aircraft weapons across six sites in the capital if there is a security scare during the Games.

Martin Howe, the firm’s senior partner, said the application for a temporary injunction and for permission to seek judicial review could be considered by a judge soon. “The papers are lodged and this needs to get in front of a judge as quickly as possible,” he said at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. “There are men and women who are very, very afraid.”

The block, home to hundreds of children, suffered damage in a fire last December, said Howe. “Residents had to be evacuated and it was a fearful experience. The last thing they need again is the risk of an explosion or disaster at their block.”

The tenants’ lawyers are arguing that there has been no “fair and proper consultation process” and that the MoD is breaching article 8 and article 1 of protocol 1 of the European convention on human rights, which protect an individual’s right to private life and peaceful enjoyment of their home.

They want the MoD to be prohibited from using the block until there has been a proper consultation process and an equality impact assessment (EIA) carried out which takes into account the needs of disabled residents.

Howe 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.

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