PRO-Palestinian protestors blockaded the Glascoed munitions factory near Usk after work started on a new bomb making facility without planning permission.

Some 60 demonstrators organised by the Cymru Peace Coalition who gathered at the front entrance also slammed the BAE plant's alleged 'ties to Israel'.

Armed with banners and placards early last Wednesday morning (January 3), they called on BAE and other companies to cease all weapons, defence, and supplies trading with the Middle East country in light of its current military operation in Gaza, where some 22,000 Palestinians have been reported dead.

The invasion followed the slaughter of some 1,200 Israelis by Hamas 'terrorists'.

Protestors at Glascoed paraded with large banners that read ‘UK Weapons Kill’ and 'Stop Arming Genocide' and waved Palestinian flags.

Newport Palestine Solidarity Campaign chairwoman Rebecca Vaughan said: "I am proud that people are highlighting arms production in Wales and its role in the genocide in Gaza.

“We are concerned that Welsh politicians have supported arms companies complicit in war crimes, as well as council pension funds invested in arms companies like the greater Gwent Pension Fund.

“We ask all politicians to use their influence to end the genocide and end complicity with arms companies fuelling human rights abuses.”

The demonstrators said they were highlighting BAE Systems PLC's "complicity in what the International Federation of Human Rights calls 'an unfolding genocide' against the Palestinian peoples by the government of Israel”.

They claim that BAE Systems currently supplies Israel "with a range of weapons systems".

A spokesperson for BAE Systems said: “We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

"We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”

Meanwhile, councillors heard that a new bomb-making building at the arms factory was started more than six months ago without planning permission. 

BAE Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited says the addition could lead to 50 new jobs. 

The site at Glascoed, near Pontypool, was originally developed in 1938 as a bomb-filling factory for the Royal Navy in the run-up to World War Two, and has continued to supply ammunition to UK troops since it was privatised by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. 

Planning applications for new developments at the factory aren’t published in the usual way on Monmouthshire Council’s dedicated planning website. 

Instead members of the public have to book an appointment, through the council planning department, to see the plans, and aren’t allowed to make any copies or publish any of the plans “due to the sensitive nature of the site”. 

However the latest application, for a “building to house munitions assembly” and to create “surrounding blast mounds” was submitted on December 1 without any documents accompanying it on the council’s website or any explanation for the lack of additional information or even the application form. 

Monmouthshire Council then published the application form, after being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service – this reveals how work has already started on the new development in May last year.

It appears council planners have been aware of the development since at least June 15 when the arms firm sought “pre-application advice”. 

The work is described, on the form, as “Construction of a building to house munitions assembly, extraction of material from ‘borrow pits’ for construction of surrounding blast mounds” proposed for part of the site last used for “munitions assembly” and as railway sidings. 

The form asks if work has already started, and the “yes” box has been ticked and where the applicant is asked when work started it is stated “15/05/2023”. The form also asks if work has been completed and the “no” box has been ticked. 

The application form states the development could lead to 50 new full-time jobs at the site and also refers to other plans that aren’t published online including a flood risk assessment and “sensitive” information about “storage of hazardous substances”. 

The application was spotted by local resident Charlotte Fleming who said she was concerned at the lack of information available  – and that a deadline for members of the public to comment was due to close on Wednesday, January 10. 

“I have an email alert for planning applications and this came up but it is almost pointless having it up on the website with such little information,” said Ms Fleming.” 

“My concern is it isn’t democratic and the planning system is supposed to be. This doesn’t seem to be transparent.” 

A BAE Systems’ spokesperson said: “We can confirm a full public consultation has been completed as part of a submitted planning application for a new production facility at Glascoed. This facility will supply essential defence stocks required by the UK Ministry of Defence. 

“We have been clear in our planning application that initial work on this critical facility has begun in advance of obtaining planning permission.” 

Monmouthshire County Councillor Tony Kear, whose Usk and Llanbadoc ward includes the Glascoed site, said he had been contacted by a resident concerned about the lack of information around the application. 

The Conservative councillor said it was also raised at the Llanbadoc Community Council meeting where members noted applications for the site are usually published with a note explaining that plans are only available to view by appointment. 

After being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service Monmouthshire County Council updated its website with the standard statement explaining the process around applications at Glascoed, it also said it would extend the consultation period. 

A council spokesman said: “The local planning authority will also allow additional time for the consultation period, which will be extended until January 24.”