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Project Cleansweep – Beyond the Post-Military Landscape in the United Kingdom



Project Cleansweep-Beyond the Post-Military Landscape in the United Kingdom, photo essay by Dara McGrath

Project Cleansweep takes its name from a Ministry of Defence (MoD) report issued in 2011 identifying sites in the UK where tens of thousands of tonnes of mustard gas, phosgene and other lethal chemicals were, since World War 1, made, processed, stored, burned and dumped in England, Wales and Scotland. To this day such sites remain problematic even when they have been returned to civilian usage.

The MoD released details of Operation Cleansweep in 2011 to provide “reassurance” that residual contamination at UK sites did not pose a risk to human health or the environment. In all 14 sites were identified in this report. Subsequent research uncovered a further 56+ sites in the UK where chemical and biological weapons were once manufactured, stored, and tested. These sites are now almost all returned to civilian use, and are now within the landscape as local bathing spots, public parks, pathways, deer sanctuaries, industrial estates and petro-chemical facilities amongst others.
They are post militarized environments and infrastructure, and a reminder still of what was a sustained military land grab in the 20th century, when over 371,000 hectares of the British landmass was reserved and appropriated for military use.

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