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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Peer pressure: Lord Egremont puts nuclear new-build on hold

WORK to pave the way for Copeland’s planned new nuclear power station has been delayed – by a lordly intervention.

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Lord Egremont: Owns mineral rights under site

Lord Egremont, a substantial landowner in Cumbria and Sussex, owns the rights to minerals lying below the surface of the site neighbouring Sellafield which has been earmarked for West Cumbria’s biggest single private sector development.

Today The Whitehaven News can reveal that the aristocrat wants to sell the rights to NuGen, the power station’s prospective developers, before allowing any exploratory work to begin.

NuGen has paid £20 million up front to buy the land itself from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in an option to purchase more of the site in what could prove a £70million deal.

Now peer pressure from Lord Egremont – who lives with his family in a stately home in Sussex – has left NuGen frustrated over the extra cost of what might lie below because the consortium can’t set foot on the Moorside site until a sale of the mineral rights has been agreed.

Lord Egremont’s asking price for whatever minerals are present is believed to be very substantial.

Planning permission is in place. NuGen wanted to start borehole drilling weeks ago to make sure the near 500-acre site is suitable for building reactors before making a final investment decision to go ahead.

The issue is said to be sensitive and in the hands of respective solicitors to try and agree an amicable settlement.

Investment worth £9 billion is predicted if the consortium decides to go ahead in three years’ time.

NuGen spokesman John McNamara said: “I can confirm the company has been delayed in getting on to the site by a claim over mineral rights. I can also confirm that we are in discussions over a claim for mineral rights but as I am sure you can appreciate this is a commercial issue and negotiations are on-going so I am unable to discuss this in any further detail at this stage.”

But behind the scene concerns are being expressed about the unexpected snag.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed, who played a key role in attracting NuGen to Copeland, said: “Getting the power station here will bring massive benefits to Copeland. Our future is too important to be held to ransom.”

The chairman of the West Cumbria Stakeholders Group, Coun David Moore, said: “This is Lords of the Manor stuff, mineral rights in many cases are probably hereditary going back to ancient and feudal times. I’d hate to think the situation here is being exploited.

“There may be no real value of the minerals under the surface of this land.

“Whatever the value, it is a great shame that Lord Egremont’s claim is holding up progress on a development which will bring thousands of jobs to our area and investment worth many billions of pounds.”

Lord Egremont, also known as historical biographer Max Egremont, lives with his family at Petworth House in West Sussex. His family owns inherited estates there and also in Cumbria, centred around Cockermouth Castle.

Petworth House itself was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1947 on the death of Lord Egremont’s great-uncle, Charles Leconfield.

Lord Egremont and his family continue to live in part of the ‘grand house’ but own Leconfield Estates (surrounding Petworth) with some 14,000 acres of land. There are 280 cottages and houses in the ownership.

The 3,000-acre Cumbrian estate includes a number of let farms, a handful of cottages, excellent salmon fishing, quarries, amenity land - and minerals.

Lord Egremont’s father, John Wyndham, traded in much of the contents of the ‘grand house’ to settle crippling inheritance tax on condition that the family remained there.

Lord Egremont’s ancestry goes back centuries with connections to Cumberland and Egremont.

Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn said: “It appears to be the case across the country that mineral rights owners are placing unpredictable and often unexpected levy on developments that has the potential to impact on the viability of projects.

“It’s potentially a significant issue, one that could have an impact on many future developments both here and on a much wider scale, including nuclear new build which is vital for this economy and our energy needs.”

Mr Reed said he was writing to Lord Egremont “in the hope common sense can prevail. Nobody who really cares about the economic well-being of the area would want to stymie this unique investment.”

While not being able to get on to the land is a step back NuGen made a step forward yesterday in being granted a licence to enable them to generate electricity from the planned Moorside reactors.

Have your say

well, he could donate the money to local development of a different nature; he doesn't have to be greedy and keep it. old poor max, doesn't have enough to play with...

Posted by it me two... on 8 April 2012 at 23:23

Lord Egremont has every right to protect his assets or investments. I am sure that Mr Reed would was also take advantage of this unique investment if he was in the same position. You don't get anything for nothing and I hardly think Mr Reed is in a position to request Lord Egremont to forego what is due to him so that others can make a profit.

Posted by It's me again on 25 March 2012 at 08:16

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