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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Firm loses appeal in bid to bury N-waste

A COMPANY which planned to bury up to a million cubic metres of nuclear waste near Distington has failed in its last-ditch bid to win approval for the scheme.

Endecom UK had hoped to use the former opencast coal mining site at Keekle Head, Pica, to dispose of low-level and very low-level waste, mostly from Sellafield.

The firm lodged an appeal after its plan was rejected by Cumbria County Council, and the arguments were aired at a public inquiry in June.

But Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has upheld the council’s decision, it has now been revealed.

Senior councillors who helped lead the fight against the plan – which was opposed by hundreds of locals – expressed delight that it has been decisively defeated.

The Keekle Head site is at the edge of the ward represented by Cumbria county councillor Tim Knowles, who said he was “absolutely delighted” Mr Pickles has backed the council’s original refusal decision.

“This part of the Government’s nuclear waste policy enables big companies to exploit existing landfill site and other areas to take low-level nuclear waste,” said the councillor, whose ward is Cleator Moor East and Frizington. “It was a cheap and easy option to put this stuff into holes in the ground and we were totally against it.

“We are totally against the proliferation of nuclear sites in this way and just about everybody in the local community opposed it. There was a huge public response.”

Although he supported the nuclear industry, Coun Knowles said the plan would have led to the burying of a huge amount of material at the site, which extends over hundreds of acres.

“It just wouldn’t have been acceptable to truck this material across the roads of West Cumbria from Sellafield to this site. There’d have been a negative impact from the wagons. There’d have been a massive amount of material.

“We need this nuclear waste to be kept around the Sellafield area, and the existing low-level waste site at Drigg. There was no need to truck it to another West Cumbrian site. It would have been a nonsense.”

Coun Knowles added that it was now time to redouble efforts to properly restore the Keekle Head site.

Howgate councillor Susan Hayman, whose ward would also have been affected, added: “The impact of the traffic would have damaged roads so I’m pleased the council’s decision has been upheld.”

Had it gone ahead, the project would have committed the site to 50 years of burying radioactive waste – most of it decommissioning waste from Sellafield – at the former open cast mine site.

Endecom launched its legal challenge to the original decision by the county council’s development control and regulation committee (DC&R) in May 2012 to refuse permission, triggering the public inquiry.

The Secretary of State agreed with the county council and the Planning Inspector who chaired the inquiry on several key points.

These included:

The development would have had “an unduly negative impact” on the area because of increased industrial traffic from Sellafield to the site;

It offered little or no social or sustainable benefits and risked harming the area’s tourism industry;

The scheme would have been “visually intrusive,” harming the landscape;

And it would not have addressed the nuclear industry’s short-term need for increased storage capacity for low-level waste.

Endecom UK claimed the development would have helped restore a neglected area of Copeland, but more than 400 people voiced concerns to the council.

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