NUCLEAR chiefs have been forced to apologise after a letter sent to 1,600 residents led them to fear their homes are at risk.

Residents and landowners across Copeland were furious after NuGen – the firm behind plans for a new power plant next to Sellafield – wrote to them last week to ask legal questions about their homes and land.

Many believed – NuGen says wrongly – their homes are at risk of compulsory purchase to make way for the three-reactor development.

The firm has accepted its letters – sent by a firm TerraQuest on NuGen’s behalf – were “not clear” and has written a second letter of apology and clarification to recipients. It adds the “vast majority” of those who received letters will not have their homes/land bought up, but has not completely ruled out this process for all.

The original letters have been roundly criticised in the community. Lena Hogg, an Egremont councillor and Copeland’s deputy mayor, said: “The letter was very technical and people were left with the impression their property was going to be compulsory purchased.”

Jayne Laine, a town councillor for Whitehaven’s Mirehouse ward, said: “The letters have caused much concern and people are fearful about losing their homes.

“I have spent time attempting to address fears and reassure people. One woman I spoke to was in a terrible state as her husband’s ashes are scattered at the bottom of her garden.”

Public meetings will take place at Egremont Cricket Club and Mirehouse Labour Club on Wednesday, April 6 (4pm and 6pm respectively) to address concerns sparked by the letters, and other NuGen-related matters.

Norman and Yvonne Clarkson, county and borough councillors respectively, said: “We are appalled by the deplorable actions of NuGen who have sent out letters to residents living in the areas of Beckermet and Blackbeck which appear to them to be threatening compulsory purchase.”

And Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (Core), described the “dogsbody of a poorly-worded letter” as a “menacing mailshot” from the developers.

Those who received letters are in the vicinity of the site itself or its associated worker accommodation developments that could be built in Mirehouse, Corkickle, Egremont or Cleator Moor.

A NuGen spokesman said: “We apologise for any confusion or concern caused. The letter was not clear and used overly-technical and officious language, which NuGen recognises has caused confusion, anxiety and worry.

“The letter did not give enough clear explanation about NuGen’s need to collect information on local land and property ownership, and was not sensitive to the way in which the letter might have been received.

“NuGen is required to collect this information, under planning rules, from anyone who has an involvement in property which could be affected by the development.” This could be in terms of noise, traffic or visual impact.

The spokesman added: “Public drop-ins will be held in Beckermet Reading Rooms (April 4, 1.30pm to 7.30pm); NuGen’s Moorside Information Centre, Whitehaven Civic Hall (April 5, 1.30pm to 7.30pm); Mirehouse Labour Club (April 6, 1.30pm to 6pm) ahead of the second stage of public consultation, due to start on May 14.

“Anyone concerned about the letter can contact the company at, or by calling the Moorside Information Centre on 01946 691006.”

NuGen hopes construction will begin in 2020. The first reactor would go on stream in 2024 and all three, with a combined 3.4GW capacity that will deliver seven per cent of the UK’s electricity, operational by 2026. A total of 21,000 jobs would be created during the lifetime of the plant.