A letter from Rod Donington-Smith (CT) to Adam Vaughan, The Guardian energy correspondent :

 

6th January 2019

Dear Adam,

As you are no doubt aware the Government, through DBEIS, issued two important documents concerning Working With Communities on 19 December, just before the start of Parliament’s Christmas break.

I have corresponded with you over the years expressing our Group’s fears about Government policy for locating a site for the construction of a GDF and we have grave suspicions that once again mainland West Cumbria will be targeted, despite safety issues due its known major geological shortcomings.

I have listed below just some of the issues resulting from reading through the “Summary of Responses to the Consultation Working With Communities: Implementing Geological Disposal” :

1) The Government’s/ BEIS’s tendency to conduct consultations with no indication that it takes on board comments/opinions that disagree with its preconceived position.

2) The Government’s/BEIS’s not so subtle plan to delay any meaningful vote to allow it to carry out all the surveying work it wishes, however damaging, without interference.

3) Call for Right of Withdrawal / Test of Public Support cannot be made by Cumbria CC as long as Copeland BC remains on board.

4) Once a positive test of Public Support (and that itself is a dodgy subject) has been carried out there is no further Right of Withdrawal.

5) The test of Public Support will be restricted to what BEIS considers to be the Potential Host Community. This could be a very small select group of people and no regard will be given to neighbours or people on transport routes (other than from GDF to the nearest main road or port).

6) The make up of the Community Partnership will be interesting. Firstly which organisations/individuals will be on it? Secondly it is noted that whilst a representative for the National Parks can be on it they will have less influence than those from the principal relevant local authorities. Thirdly the timescales involved will mean changes within the locality and also the personnel involved. fourthly The envisaged role of RWM Ltd is worrying. Besides being the contractor it is the main source of advice or the conduit for third party advice from a few selected sources.

7) Population living in a deprived area dominated by the nuclear industry. The potential of bribes will be more attractive in such an area.

 

Below are some more detailed notes that you may find of interest:

It now seems clear that Michael Fallon MP, when he was the Minister with responsibility for Energy in 2013, was right when he said that steps were being taken to prevent Cumbria CC blocking any new attempt to put a GDF in W Cumbria. (CCC cannot exercise the Right of Withdrawal or request a Test of Public Support without agreement from other principal local authorities – Copeland and or Allerdale para 47 & 112).

  1. All relevant principal local authorities on the Community Partnership must agree before the Right of Withdrawal can be invoked or the Test of Public Support can take place.  For example, in an area with two tiers of local government and where both relevant principal local authorities are on the Community Partnership then they must both agree to invoke the Right of Withdrawal and to carry out the Test of Public Support. It would not be appropriate for principal local authorities to take these decisions without being members of the Community Partnership and fully engaged in the process. Hence, in order for a relevant principal local authority to have a voice in the process it must be a member of the Community Partnership.  The role of principal local authorities is discussed further in our response to question 9.
  1. Some respondents to the consultation may be concerned that this revised process could allow principal local authorities to override the wishes of the community. There are important safeguards built into the policy to prevent this. It will be for the Potential Host Community, through a Test of Public Support, to ultimately decide whether it is willing to host a GDF. Communities can withdraw from the process at any time. As set out in our response to question 7 it is not the Government’s intention to make it difficult for communities to leave the process. The Right of Withdrawal can be used at any time up until the final Test of Public Support. The Community Partnership will be responsible for monitoring public opinion throughout the process and can take a view on whether withdrawal would be appropriate at any time, though the decision to withdraw would be taken by the relevant principal local authorities on the Community Partnership.  If the monitoring showed there was little prospect of building support then it would not be in the interests of the principal local authorities to seek to keep the community in the process against the will of its electorate.  Equally RWM could decide to withdraw from the process if it believed there was little prospect of building support.

Also, despite a suggestion to the contrary, representatives for National Parks will not be given greater role on the Community Partnership (para 114). Regardless of the fact that The Lake District National Park is now a World Heritage Site.

  1. The Government agrees that it is appropriate to invite representation on the Community Partnership from National Park Authorities if the Search Area includes land for which they are responsible, but does not agree they should have an equivalent role to principal local authorities elected to represent people in the area.

OTHER COMMENTS:

Para 22: The Govt does not agree that the Potential Host Community (PHC) should extend beyond those directly impacted. (That effectively rules out a large part of potentially effected neighbouring communities including those on transport routes beyond the nearest main road or port. As long as at least one principal local authority remains on board the PHC can continue the process Para 98. if one part of the PHC chooses to withdraw other parts can still continue as long as one principal LA remains on board. HOWEVER tests of public support have to be OK’ed by all principal LAs)

Para 23: Won’t exclude National Parks or AONB from consideration from the outset.

Para 26: It is not possible to identify areas where the geology is suitable without detailed exploration. Para 28: Once a community becomes involved RWM will begin to gather further information. RWM will need to do further investigation both desk-based and in he field. (Scope for very damaging and disruptive surveying work within LDNP that could take up to 20 years to complete). See also paras 95 & 96

Para 50: Have posted in full as RWM is putting itself forward as the providers of expert advice so where does that leave outsiders with contrary opinions?:

The Government remains of the view that RWM should be a member of the Community Partnership.  It has been chosen as the developer for a GDF, and specifically tasked with working in partnership with communities through a consent based siting process. As the developer of the GDF, RWM will have a key role as a source of information and expertise on geological disposal. It will help the community access information from a range of resources, from its own technical and scientific teams, or from independent parties who can help to answer questions. A shortcoming, identified by some respondents, of the previous siting process that ended in 2013, was that the community did not have access to RWM’s expert knowledge on geological disposal. Having RWM as a member of the Community Partnership seeks to rectify this as other members of the Community Partnership will be able to hold RWM to account and ensure that any concerns and questions the community may have are addressed.

(There is more information about the restricted range of advice that can be provided by Third Party Experts in Section 2 of Annex 1 to the Memorandum of Understanding)

Para 71: Investment in the community. (Whilst loot/bribes is for the immediate area but excludes the wider area irrespective of the potential downside for them)

Para 78: NDA won’t provide additional funding to communities living close to existing nuclear sites. All funding is for decommissioning and cleaning up NDA sites and for permanent disposal facility.

Para 88: Right of Withdrawal will cease once a PHC has demonstrated its willingness to host a GDF through a Test of Public Support. (this was one of our major concerns)

Paras 95 & 96: Have posted in full. They are making a virtue out of disregarding one of the things that was right about the previous MRWS process. It virtually says “Give us a free hand to do what we want under the guise of gathering information to better inform PHCs irrespective of what that involves”:

  1. The Government does not agree that there should be frequent Tests of Public Support as it could result in communities taking a decision before they have all the necessary information at their disposal. We have proposed a Test of Public Support in advance of RWM seeking development consent and regulatory approval for the construction and operation of a GDF so that communities can take an informed decision and have a clear understanding of what it will mean for their community. RWM will have been gathering information it needs to provide to the Planning Inspectorate, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and the Environment Agency. It will make this information available to the Potential Host Community before it takes a Test of Public Support. The Government, therefore, does not agree that there is a need for an additional Test of Public Support after RWM has submitted its application for development consent.
  1. The Government does not see any reason to hold a Test of Public Support at the start of the process, as suggested by some consultees The Working with Communities policy sets out a framework for engaging with communities through a Community Partnership. It is about facilitating dialogue between RWM and the community. It is an opportunity for the community to find about what hosting a GDF would mean for them. If the community doesn’t want to have this dialogue and has no interest in finding out more, then it will not be possible to form a viable Community Partnership. There is no need for an initial Test of Public Support.

Para 101: (under “what you said” not “what we said”). Some of the respondents did not want CCC to be in the position to again unilaterally invoke the Right of Withdrawal or Launch a Test of Public Support

Paras 111 & 112: Similar situation as in paras 95 & 96. Making a virtue out of a faulty process. Giving themselves time to do all investigation work by drawing out the process. Easy for RWM to withdraw anytime it wants but much harder for others to do so:

  1. Some respondents to the consultation may be concerned that giving relevant principal local authorities the final say in when or if a Test of Public Support should be carried out risks repeating the failure of the previous siting process to identify a suitable location for a GDF.  The previous process to find a location for a GDF ended in part because it required the community and local authorities to take decisions at set points in a rigid process, without having sufficient flexibility to carry out the work needed to address their questions and provide the information they wanted before taking those decisions. This revised process allows RWM to respond to the needs of the community, including its principal local authorities, to help them develop over time a clear understanding of the implications of hosting a GDF before taking a Test of Public Support. 
  1. Some respondents to the consultation may be concerned that this revised process could allow principal local authorities to override the wishes of the community. There are important safeguards built into the policy to prevent this. It will be for the Potential Host Community, through a Test of Public Support, to ultimately decide whether it is willing to host a GDF. Communities can withdraw from the process at any time. As set out in our response to question 7 it is not the Government’s intention to make it difficult for communities to leave the process. The Right of Withdrawal can be used at any time up until the final Test of Public Support. The Community Partnership will be responsible for monitoring public opinion throughout the process and can take a view on whether withdrawal would be appropriate at any time, though the decision to withdraw would be taken by the relevant principal local authorities on the Community Partnership.  If the monitoring showed there was little prospect of building support then it would not be in the interests of the principal local authorities to seek to keep the community in the process against the will of its electorate.  Equally RWM could decide to withdraw from the process if it believed there was little prospect of building support.

Please feel free to contact me, if you require any clarification of the points raised.

Regards

Rod Donington-Smith

Cumbria Trust – Director

 

About cumbriatrust

A Voice for Cumbria
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.