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Thursday, 20 November 2014

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Nuclear store search: Cumbria council decision upheld

A decision by Cumbria County Council not to stay in the running to host a proposed underground nuclear waste dump has been supported by a watchdog committee.

Councillors examined the controversial decision again after it was called in by members unhappy that the council was not to proceed to the next stage of the process to look into the possiblity of siting a waste repository in west Cumbria

During the meeting in Carlisle, council leader Eddie Martin – who originally voted against the process continuing – revealed that he would not seek re-election at the polls in May. He told the scrutiny committee that he had decided to stand down weeks before the repository decision.

This meant he could not have influenced fellow councillors during the repository debate when he said he would resign if the vote didn’t go his way.

And in the latest twist, Copeland council leader Elaine Woodburn called on Twitter for deputy leader Stewart Young to do “the honourable thing” and stand down. She said he had “let west Cumbria down.”

The vote not to proceed to the next stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process was taken on January 30.

It was called in by three county councillors including David Southward, who told members that they had followed the recommended process, consulted with local communities and heard all of the arguments.

He added that a report was published last August containing the findings of the consultation process.

“It was clear that the majority of Cumbrians and no fewer than two-thirds of the residents of Copeland were minded to proceed to stage four,” he said.

“When the decision was taken on January 30 it should have been straight forward. Cabinet voted to stop the project dead in its tracks.

“I know of no coherent reason why cabinet took the decision it did. Cabinet responded to the wrong question.”

Mr Southward wondered whether the members of the cabinet had ‘cow towed’ to the protesters because three members who had previously supported the move voted against it.

He said: “The decision on January 30 was, in my mind, a dire mistake. Cumbria had nothing to lose to continue with the process but potentially a great deal to gain. We are a spent force in the Government’s eyes.”

Councillor Frank Morgan, one of the members who seconded the call in, added that the cabinet could have been swayed by the council leader’s statement that he could ‘have to consider his position’ after the meeting.

Mr Martin said that his loyalties were with the people of Cumbria not Westminster.

He added: “The people of Cumbria elected me not David Cameron.”

He said that a desk top study in 1986 had identified a number of locations down the east coast as suitable sites for such a facility, including one near to the Prime Minister’s constituency.

Revealing that he would not stand for re-election in May, he said the possibility of him resigning as leader should not have influenced the vote.

He said: “The further we went down the road the more difficult it would be to get off. If you want Cumbria to store the nation’s nuclear waste forever and ever, and in perpetuity, there will be a price to pay.”

Councillor William Whalen, a member of the scrutiny advisory board, agreed that a guaranteed option to withdraw from the process had not been given by the Government.

Mr Whalen proposed that members back the decision of the cabinet and the motion was given unanimous support.

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