Our beautiful Solway coast is one of England’s most beautiful and timeless landscapes.
The quiet beaches, the marshes and the windswept dunes are some of the best places to escape from it all as well as being absolute wildlife havens.
Like its better known Cumbrian sibling (Lake District National Park), however, this area is at risk from a geological disposal facility (GDF).
The Mercia Mudstone Group found in this area was identified as a potentially suitable rock volume by the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, although this was VERY controversial for a number of reasons, not least of all that the geology is NOT suitable!
How do we know? So much is ALREADY known about the geology of the area because of extensive oil and gas exploration activities undertaken there.
Thankfully, because of its AONB status and a combination of planning and environmental law, the Solway Coast is a highly protected environment.
Such protection should, in effect, make it impossible to consider any part of the AONB, or areas close to it, as a repository site without first exhausting a national search for all alternative sites.
Even the Nirex process in the 80s and 90s (which involved a national search but ultimately, irrationally, chose a site near Sellafield) had excluded, at an early stage, all environmentally sensitive sites such as AONBs
Such exclusion was the one aspect of Nirex’s site selection process which was endorsed by the Inspector in the Nirex judgment!
Why? Well, given the legal protection afforded to these sites, it is not just morally and ethically reprehensible but also plain stupid to consider them.
If any GDF process is started again in West Cumbria (and it should not be for MANY other reasons), then we believe it legally incumbent on the decision makers to exclude from the process the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and areas adjacent to it as well as all other environmentally sensitive areas, such as SACs, SPAs RAMSARs and SSSIs.
And, if this is not possible, then the process simply cannot proceed at all for this reason alone.
The Background Law
The statutory purposes of AONB designation are to:
• Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and
• Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities by the public.
In pursuing their statutory responsibilities, all authorities have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities.
We note that tourism in Cumbria generates around £2.2bn per annum and directly employs 57,000 people.
Legislation also requires all relevant authorities and public bodies, such as DECC, the NDA and district and county councils, to take AONB purposes into account when they make decisions or carry out activities which might affect an AONB (“the Duty”).
We believe that the decisions of Allerdale relating to MRWS were probably unlawful, as we do not believe the Duty was discharged.
Our Solway Coast is a national asset which should be treasured – not ruined – and we will fight to the end to ensure that this landscape is protected.
Slideshow created for the 2012/13 SPAND campaign, Music by Geoff Betsworth.
For more information on the AONB see
and forfurther information on geology