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Saturday, 02 August 2014

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Referendum call on nuclear store for Cumbria

CALLS have been made for a referendum to decide whether Cumbria should be considered to house a giant underground nuclear waste store.

A veteran Carlisle politician is among those demanding that the people – not just politicians – should decide whether the county should be in the running for the controversial scheme.

Liz Mallinson spoke amid increasing speculation that a fresh attempt could be mounted to house an atomic repository in Cumbria – but with the county council stripped of its power to veto a site search.

She said: “I am concerned that the people of Cumbria are being disregarded. We need a referendum for the whole of Cumbria. It’s not just Copeland and Allerdale.”

The search for a high-level waste store site in Cumbria was blocked earlier this year after the county council’s ruling cabinet – of which Conservative Mrs Mallinson was then a member – pulled the area out of the process.

It was a decision that triggered fierce political debate after Allerdale and Copeland councils voted to stay in the process, but were unable to do so without the county’s support.

Chances of the search restarting have emerged after the Government announced details of a possible new consultation process that could see the district councils going ahead without the county’s support.

County councillors debated the issue yesterday ahead of its cabinet formally responding to the Government consultation later this month.

Town and parish councils may also be excluded from the process to decide whether there should or could be a Geological Disposal Facility in any specific area.

West Cumbrian councillor Stan Collins said it was unusual that the county council – as the waste authority – was being excluded and that the community benefits of any scheme, were it to go ahead, had to be more transparent.

He said: “Any community that is considering volunteering is putting itself under a planning blight. Any business that is considering investing in that area could be thinking what is that decision going to be?”

Mr Collins also called for a referendum, adding: “Let’s make sure that those areas, if they are part of it, are properly compensated and not just with a few goodies in a crumpled paper bag.”

Labour councillor Tim Knowles resigned from his cabinet position in the Conservative-Labour coalition running the authority at the time of the no vote. He told colleagues in Kendal yesterday that a solution to the atomic store issue had to be found, with 70 per cent of Britain’s nuclear waste already in Copeland.

“It’s essential that we engage – we just can’t take our ball home and refuse to continue,” he said.

Councillor David Southward, the portfolio holder for economic development, said there had already been a very long process and January’s decision had been the right one

It was no surprise to him, however, that the Government had produced this latest consultation.

He added: “This is the same process except the decision-making body isn’t the county council, it is the district councils.”

Campaign group the Cumbria Trust, fronted by former county leader Eddie Martin, has been formed to oppose moves to search for a storage site in the area.

Consultation on the approach runs until December 15, with the re-launch of the national selection process next year.

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