Cumbria Tourism – Response

RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNMENT’S CONSULTATION ON THE SITING
PROCESS FOR A GEOLOGICAL DISPOSAL FACILITY

The Government is currently undertaking a consultation to gather views on how
aspects of the siting process for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for higher activity
radioactive waste could be revised and improved. This follows the previous
Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process which focussed on the search
for a suitable site in West Cumbria over a three year period between 2009 and 2012
and the County Council decision (January 2013) not to proceed further in the site
search and investigation process.
In the interim, the Government has reaffirmed its preferred approach to the
management of higher activity radioactive waste – through deep level geological
disposal, preceded by safe and secure interim storage. To identify potential sites for
a GDF the UK Government continues to favour an approach based on voluntarism
(that is, the willingness of local communities to participate), working in partnership
with communities that may ultimately host a facility.
The Government is now proposing a number of changes to the ways in which the
current siting process for a GDF could be improved including the provision of more
information (on issues such as geology and socio-economic impacts) at a much
earlier stage in the process and the offer of a clear commitment to an on-going ‘Right
of Withdrawal’ for any communities that become involved, with a final decision
involving the local population directly. Crucially the Government is also proposing
that the decision making body representing potential host communities throughout
the siting process will in future be the District Council (as opposed to both District
and County Councils under the current legislation).
Cumbria Tourism is the Destination Management Organisation for the county and
currently has a membership of some 2,800 businesses. Each year the county
attracts some 40m visitors who spend over £2.1billion. The county’s visitor economy
sustains over 31,000 FTE jobs directly and a good deal more in supporting sectors.
Given the scale and importance of the tourism industry in the county, Cumbria
Tourism is anxious to protect the strong brand and image of the destination as
perceived by visitors both within the UK and overseas. It is therefore keen to engage
in the consultation to represent the wider views of the tourism industry.
In terms of the specific proposals set out in the consultation Cumbria Tourism is
content that
• A test of public support should be taken before the representative authority
loses the Right of Withdrawal
• The Government should produce a National Policy Statement on a GDF
setting out the assessment principles against which a planning application
would be considered. It is hoped that such a statement would make it clear
that nationally designated areas such as National Parks and Areas of
Outstanding Natural Beauty are inappropriate locations for geological disposal
facilities – either on or beneath the surface – given their natural and landscape
qualities and the need for their protection.
• The classification of a GDF as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure
Project which would be subject to the planning regime as set out in the
Planning Act 2008.
• Increased clarity at an early stage about the scale and timing of community
benefits and the likely investment in the area.
• The proposed approach to addressing socio-economic and environmental
issues at an early stage in the process both at the ‘local’ and the county-wide
level.
However Cumbria Tourism is opposed to several other proposals in the
consultation, most notably
• Amendments to the decision making arrangements within the MRWS
siting process. In an area like Cumbria where two tier Local Government
exists, it remains crucial for the County Council involvement in the decision
making process. The County Council is the Minerals and Waste Authority and
has an important role in the economic and public health fortunes of an area. In
these circumstances it seems perverse that the County Council should be
excluded from the decision making process.
• Revisions to the roles in the siting process. The case for this has not been
adequately made in the consultation paper. All the tiers of Local Government
need to be involved together with National Park Authorities.
• The proposed approach to assessing geological suitability as part of the
MRWS siting process. Instead a thorough assessment of the geological
suitability for a GDF should take place in advance of seeking volunteer
communities. This should identify parts of the UK where geological conditions
are broadly suitable and avoid disruptive challenges and the loss of
confidence in the later stages of the process.

CT-M