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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Public ‘will be asked for its views before GDF decision’

PUBLIC support should be secured before an area volunteers to potentially host an underground repository for high-level nuclear waste, says Copeland Council – but this should not take the form of a referendum.

The borough council also feels that it – and not the county – should have the final say on whether the area ultimately hosts a geological disposal facility (GDF).

These were among the main recommendations from Copeland as it responded to the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) consultation into what format the next search process should take.

The council says: “Public support should be secured prior to initial engagement in the process, to provide the necessary mandate to the representative authority to express an interest. Key to ensuring a meaningful understanding of what represents public support will be the definition of the community which is being asked to provide a view.”

Copeland adds that seeking agreement will require “significant input” from stakeholders.

“Whilst a referendum provides scope for testing public support, our view is that it has weaknesses, again relating to the issue surrounding the definition of community.

“There is concern that a referendum could be dominated by vociferous minority and would not ultimately truly reflect the views of the wider community.

“There would be justification for a final test of support to be determined by way of a local referendum if robust and regular independent polling and other survey methods failed to demonstrate lack of support over an agreed timescale.

“Local agreement would be required well in advance about both the methods to be used and the geographic area over which opinions should be canvassed and support measured, recognising that the impact of a GDF may not be contained within the administrative boundaries of one authority.”

The council also believes that there should be a test of public support before a representative authority uses and/or loses the right of withdrawal and that such a test should take place after the planning contest process.

In terms of who should have the ultimate decision, Copeland says it is “broadly supportive” of a revised process that would see a district authority like itself have the decision-making power.

Under the previous Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process, Cumbria County Council’s “no” vote on January 30 to proceed to the next stage ended Copeland’s involvement against its wishes.

Cumbria County Council, in its feedback submitted to DECC, says that it “does not agree” with the revised roles proposed, adding that “both tiers of local government have skills and expertise that would be relevant to a GDF siting process”.

Copeland says: “We believe that partnership working will need to be at the heart of any future siting process.

“Whilst we consider that in any new process the right of withdrawal should be held by a district authority in two-tier areas, there should be an opportunity to include a county authority (and other local community stakeholder groups including parish councils as agreed locally) in the decision-making process.”

Regarding community benefits, the government proposes that a proportion should be released before the start of underground operations.

It adds: “The government would also create (potentially through legislation) a community fund, into which it would begin paying during the focusing phase, and would only be able to retrieve these funds if a GDF was not constructed in the community.

“The remainder of the available funds would be paid, including into the community fund, following the final decision to construct a GDF and during the early years of underground operations.”

Copeland says it is “largely supportive” of this approach, including the early release of some funds and that it should be “enshrined in legislation”.

The council’s response adds: “We expect that any benefits package would reflect local needs and demands and be flexible enough to respond to those needs, recognising the national role that such a facility will provide.” Agreement should also be reached, says the council, early in the process.

The DECC consultation deadline has now been extended until December 19 (https://econsultation.decc.gov.uk). It is expected that DECC will launch the new process next year.

See also Opinion on page 12.

Have your say

Did we read that correct - We should have final say says Copeland Borough Council! Well to tell the truth what a load of complete rubbish they can't get organise getting the grass cut never mind making decisions on behalf of everyone else! The Council should stick to what they know best... you all can work that out for yourselves

Posted by Another load of horse poo on 17 December 2013 at 14:43

Copeland is the second to last least populated borough's of Cumbria. yet it is dictating the terms which will affect the lives of half a million Cumbrian's and denying us the opportunity for our opinions to be heard by having a County wide referendum. Copeland Council and its MP Jamie Reed would be lucky if they managed to secure 10-15% of the vote in a referendum which is the sole reason why them have ruled it out.

Posted by Barry on 17 December 2013 at 13:43

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