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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Protesters set up camp on island
Drake's Island
Dan McCauley has owned the island since 1995
Twelve members of an anti-nuclear campaign group have set up a peace camp on a small island off Plymouth.

The group, from Plymouth Trident Ploughshares, has declared Drake's Island a nuclear-free state.

The 6.5-acre island, which lies half a mile off Plymouth's waterfront, contains derelict military barracks and buildings from the Napoleonic era.

The island is owned by former Plymouth Argyle chairman Dan McCauley who is unhappy about the invasion.

Drake's Island
First fortifications built on the island in 1549
In 1583 Sir Francis Drake was made governor of the tiny island
In the late 16th century, barracks for 300 men were built on the island in case of a Spanish invasion
After the Civil War, the island became a state prison for 25 years
The group and their supporters claim the UK has breached the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by refitting nuclear powered and nuclear armed Trident submarines at Devonport Dockyard.

The campaigners, who arrived on the island on Friday afternoon, set up camp in one of the island's empty buildings and erected huge banners saying "Ban the Bomb" and "Scrap Trident".

One of the squatters, a woman named only as Al, speaking from the island on Friday said: "We have declared the island a nuclear free state in order to highlight Britain's hypocrisy over the non proliferation treaty talks being held in New York."

She said the campaigners aimed to stay on the island as long as they could until someone evicted them. "We have squatters rights," she said, adding that a court would have to grant an order to remove them.

They say they are also concerned about the permitted discharge of the substance tritium in the River Tamar.

Devon and Cornwall police said they were informed by the Ministry of Defence police of the squatters on the island.

'Security risk'

"This land was sold by the MoD to a private landowner some time ago, and is therefore under the jurisdiction of this force," the spokesman said.

Drake's Island
The protesters landed on the island on Friday

"Action can only be taken should the landowner require it. However, at this stage, this force has received no such complaint."

Mr McCauley said he had no sympathy with the group's cause.

"It's a security risk," he said.

"The MoD has a mast on there guiding nuclear shipping in and out of the harbour."

He bought the island for an undisclosed sum from the Crown Estate in 1995.

His plans to turn the barracks into a hotel, to build an extension to house a restaurant and a new reception building, and for a visitor centre and helipad were rejected by the city council in 2003.


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