Missiles to be sited on London flats

Sun, Apr 29, 2012, 01:00

The British army is to station soldiers and high velocity surface-to-air missiles on top of a block of residential flats in east London to ward off any airborne terror threats during the Olympics.

The 700 residents in the private, gated flats in Bow have received a leaflet warning them that a team of 10 soldiers and police will be stationed at the building for the duration of the games.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) leaflet says the missiles will only be fired as a last resort, said resident Brian Whelan, a journalist.

“They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they’re stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months," he said.

“It’s a private, gated community with an old watch tower which is now a lift shaft. We have an MoD leaflet saying the building is the only suitable place in the area.

“It says there will be 10 officers plus police present 24/7. I’m not sure if they are going to live in the building.

“We have a gym and a pool and people have seen them there so it makes you think it will be some sort of army base - it’s not ideal.”

He said the property management company put up posters and gave out the leaflets yesterday. “I’ve looked these (the missiles) up and I don’t think they’re the kind of thing you can fire over a highly populated area like Tower Hamlets, " he said. “From the few people I’ve spoken to, and the security we have here, they’re not happy about it."

It was unclear who was responsible for liaising with the residents, but it is understood the Ministry of Defence and the Metropolitan Police were working together with community groups over the issue. It was also unclear if the building’s owners would be paid to have the missiles stationed on the roof - or whether the decision was made under the Emergency Powers Act.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As announced before Christmas, ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London during the games.

“Based on military advice we have identified a number of sites and, alongside colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, are talking to local authorities and relevant landowners to help minimise the impact of any temporary deployments.

“As part of our ongoing planning, we can confirm site evaluations have taken place. However, no final decision on whether or not to deploy ground-based air defence systems for the games has been taken.”