SALISBURY’S new university technical college risks being too closely linked to the arms trade, it is claimed.

The appointment of a Dstl boss as chairman of governors has been criticised by a former United Reformed Church minister and peace activist.

The Rev Hazel Barkham, from Mere, said the choice of Dr Pete Thompson, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s deputy chief executive, “sets a clear direction for the school”.

Dstl is “a government body dedicated to developing and promoting new types of weapons systems”, she told the Journal.

“And local arms companies such as Chemring and QinetiQ will be working closely with the students.

“We should be encouraging young scientists and engineers to work for a more peaceful world and not to produce weapons.”

The Rev Barkham, who is a member of Salisbury CND, added: “I am keen on engineering – I have taught engineering at Yeovil College in the past – but not weapons engineering.

“There are much more inspiring, beneficial careers the young people could go to.

“This could just perpetuate the area’s arms trade.

“They are taking children as young as 14. Do these children know what they are being lured into?

“Taxpayers who help fund that college will be funding arms trade employers. It’s very frightening.”

UTC Principal Designate Gordon Aitken said: “Our 14-18 year-old students will have direct and regular inputs from a wide range of employers, many of them world leaders in their fields.

“This input will give background context to the knowledge and skills young people need to pass exams and make their learning come to life by showing how science and engineering are applied in the real world.”