Campaigners welcome pause to airfield plans

Concerns raised over Llanbedr being used to train Saudi pilots

Quakers have welcomed the news that plans for the RAF Valley station in Anglesey to use Llanbedr Airfield in Wales to develop their training programme have been ‘formally paused’.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) and Cymdeithas y Cymod (the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales) also expressed their approval. The groups jointly wrote to all members of the Senedd Cymru (Welsh Assembly) and all Welsh MPs last month urging them to withhold support for the new airfield. Both groups pledged to keep alert to any future end to the ‘pause’.

Many local people, including Friends, had objected strongly to the rise in noise levels that could follow the increased training flights, and to the likelihood of Llanbedr being used to train Saudi pilots.

Moragh Bradshaw from Porthmadog Meeting told the Friend that the airfield has been increasingly discussed by Quakers in Gwynedd as they considered what action to take. ‘The feeling in the Local Meeting is that it’s a great shame that we have these kind of jobs being offered, and not more positive ones. There’s great conflict in the area because, of course, it brings much needed employment.’

Frances Voelcker from Porthmadog Meeting said that the community where the airfield is based is particularly in need of jobs as there are many holiday homes and young people are leaving in search of work. ‘It’s a very rural, peripheral community,’ she said. ‘The MP, Liz Saville Roberts, is, quite understandably, actually promoting the use of the airbase and an old long-disused nuclear power station, despite really not being [pro-military]. Our Quaker Build Back Better group is working to promote local alternative and greener forms of employment that are not dependent on the military.’

The Plaid Cymru MP has previously criticised the army for ‘shamelessly targeting poor kids from North Wales’.

The PPU said that the campaign is ‘very much ongoing against the training of pilots from Saudi Arabia at RAF Valley, as UK companies continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, used to kill so many innocent people in Yemen’.

Pryderi Llwyd Jones, chair of the local branch of Cymdeithas y Cymod, said: ‘This is a pause and it is not a time to relax in our campaigning but to be vigilant in a world where the arms industry is growing and war victims increasing. Is it not time, after its long history, that Llanbedr should be developed for peaceful purposes only?’

Symon Hill, campaigns manager of the PPU, said he was ‘delighted’ that the RAF had ‘backed down’ but warned: ‘If the RAF try something similar elsewhere, they will meet with the same resistance.’ He noted that the RAF’s ‘pause’ came less than a week after ‘a soldier based in Wales was arrested for having the courage to speak out against British support for the Saudi war in Yemen’.

British involvement in the Saudi attacks on Yemen, where tens of thousands of people have been killed, has been increasingly under the spotlight since a 2019 United Nations report said that England, the US and France may be complicit in war crimes for aiding and weaponising the Saudi-led coalition.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.