I have sent the email below to NALC and the LGA. Don’t know if it was appropriate or if I will get a response. ~ Roger Parker
As you will know the Department of Energy and Climate Change has recently requested views on the siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for nuclear waste. I have looked through your website and attempted to find out the views of your organisation and whether or not you will be responding. I was amazed to find that there appeared to be no information on this topic and was stunned by the silence from your members surrounding this issue.
Considering the threat to democracy that DECC consultation proposes, I could not believe that there was to be no robust rebuttal of the process from your organisation. As you know Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process was effectively stopped in Cumbria when our democratically elected County Council exercised its Right Of Withdrawal (ROW) on Jan 30th this year. This new process is supposed to be a national search for volunteer communities but appears to be nothing more than an attempt to restart the process in West Cumbria by marginalising the County Council and parish councils to purely consultative roles. This is clearly undemocratic and renders any ROW as meaningless.
Having examined the document at length i have found that the proposals will allow for a body, which is most likely to be a Borough or District Council, to express an interest. This body will then be responsible for steering the project and finally as Representative Authority (RA), it will decide upon a right of withdrawal. Advocate, facilitator and arbiter, no one body should have all of these roles. This would lead to the perception of partiality, even if no abuse of power actually occurs. In addition the document argues that the RA must be democratically elected. In many cases Borough or District Councils delegate this type of matter to a “Cabinet” of members rather than debating the issue in full council. These members are not elected to this cabinet, and could be chosen from a cabal of like minded individuals by a Council leader. This is clearly no more democratic than allowing the Parish Councils, with the occasional co-opted member, to make the decision on behalf of a community. The revised approach could be thought to show a duality of standards.
Another example of a plurality of standards is illustrated in the way that the government does not accept that the County Council is the appropriate candidate for RA in England, however it has accepted that this will be appropriate for Wales.
A GDF project will cross many service boundaries, highways minerals, planning, safety, waste disposal, too many to list here. To reduce the County Council purely to a consultative role creates the impression that DECC are removing potential obstacles to their desired conclusion, rather than creating an inclusive process truly based on volunteerism. It would seem that it is believed that construction of a GDF must be examined for each area in isolation. It is an unrealistic approach to assume that a GDF in one particular area or community would not affect any of the surrounding communities. The impact upon transport and service infrastructure alone requires an overview that is only possible County wide. No single Borough or District Council has authority to act on issues affecting the authorities surrounding it. Equally, to demote the body that is closest to community, the Parish or Town Councils, to a consultative role without any say in the decision making process, reinforces the view that the process is being designed to provide the outcome the government needs.
A further concern is that DECC wish to bring the GDF under the status of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project with regard to Planning Consent. This may or may not be appropriate, but certainly not when you consider that the proposals will be decided upon the Secretary of State DECC not the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. If this process is allowed to continue it may form the model for countless other areas in which a community or Local Authority has a different view to the Government, for example fracking applications.
As I indicated earlier, I was surprised that I could find no evidence of this issue on your websites. I would be grateful if you would confirm your organisations view on this matter and let me know if you will be responding to the consultation by its deadline of December 5th.