This response was submitted to DECC by Rod Donington-Smith (Director), on behalf of Cumbria Trust.
Call for Evidence Questions
Call for Evidence Question 1: How to define a community
1.1 Siting a GDF will involve a process of working with willing communities – but what constitutes a ‘community’ in this context has not yet been defined.
Do you have evidence, examples, experience about how ‘the community’ should best be defined, in the context of a community considering whether or not it wishes to host a geological disposal facility?
Evidence could be drawn from the UK or from abroad, and from other examples of nationally significant infrastructure, however respondents should bear in mind that the eventual definition will need to be flexible enough to be applicable to different areas across the country that may wish to join the siting process.
For a start we would point out that the procedure to be followed under the White Paper is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to seek volunteer communities from the most promising areas as identified by the National Geological Screening exercise. Having said that:
A lot should have been learnt from the failed MRWS process where two District Councils or rather their Executive Committee members were prepared to consider progressing onto Stage 4 despite vocal opposition from residents, including town and parish councillors, especially those most at risk of being in the in areas close to the perceived GDF target sites. It is one thing to find a community, which itself is prepared to be considered as a potential host, but the views of neighbouring communities, which potentially may well be affected, cannot be simply overlooked. Having Executive Committee members potentially volunteering the land around Ennerdale or Silloth as potential sites against the wishes of local residents was plainly wrong especially as none of them lived in those areas.
As for a definition of “communities” in willing communities: “Everyone that will be affected by the surveying, construction and running of a GDF”.
Being a permanent disposal site there will remain an everlasting risk of water or gas born toxic waste escaping to the surface into the atmosphere or water supplies.
1.2 Please provide examples of where this approach has been used and how it contributed to effective community representation during the delivery of a major infrastructure project. Please also identify any barriers and challenges that should be taken into account.
[NB: While the precise layout and design of a GDF will depend on where it is sited, it would have both surface facilities (around 1 square kilometre) and underground facilities, linked by shafts and / or access tunnels. The underground facilities do not need to be located directly below the surface facilities, they could be separated by a distance of several kilometres.]
The construction of a GDF is like no ordinary major infrastructure project. Inevitably there will be opposition to any site that is selected. Unless the Government, DECC and RWM have good grounds to justify their eventual site selection they are asking for trouble leading to yet another failure. If locations known to have more promising geology have been ignored, it will be hard to convince a sceptical public that safety was their prime concern rather than convenience.
During the MRWS process concerns were raised about potential environmental damage and the need for protection of the National Park, SSSIs, SACs & AONB. As stated above opposition came from residents but also from businesses, employees, organisations as well as from people living outside Cumbria. Tourism and its associated industries must be one of if not the biggest employers in Cumbria. Millions of visitors visit Cumbria each year. They will want to have their voices heard, if there is a risk of a GDF being built beneath or close to the National Park.
When the subject of GDFs was first raised they were for dealing with legacy waste. With a nuclear future planned for power generation an unknown quantity and potency of additional waste will need to be accommodated. Potential volunteer communities are therefore being asked to host sites for an open-ended quantity of waste, making the dimensions shown on the original diagrams obsolete. Whilst this should be of serious concern to small local communities offering themselves as potential host communities it will rightly be of concern to their neighbours – the wider community.
1.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Lessons should have been learnt from the process being followed in countries like Denmark where only six municipalities were allowed to put themselves forward as volunteers, as they were in areas thought to contain “good” geology. Under the current proposed process vast areas with potentially suitable geology will be ignored without volunteer communities being actively sought and even then volunteers from those areas might not be forthcoming. The more affluent parts of the country are also less likely to volunteer.
Call for Evidence Question 2:
How to provide effective representation, governance and decision making
2.1 Do you have evidence, examples or experience of effective ways for the views of a local ‘community’ to be represented in formal discussions in the delivery of large infrastructure projects?
Respondents should bear in mind that the siting process for a GDF could take many decades, and representing a community will involve representing a diverse range of local views and opinions over a time period extending over many local and national electoral cycles. Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers and challenges.
Under the proposed scheme a community can volunteer to be considered as a possible host. As stated the siting process could take many decades. Having spent time and money on the siting process it is hard to imagine that any Government would readily allow that community to opt out at the last minute especially if it considers that a possible suitable site has been located. RWM would need to be confident that it will have the continued support of the community or rig the “show of public support” to ensure that it can proceed. If all else fails the Secretary of State could impose it upon that community, which would not be a popular move. Unless the wider community is involved right from the start the risk of the Right of Withdrawal being exercised is increased.
Conflicting information from representatives of RWM is already evident. In a radio broadcast on Radio Cumbria (18.8.15) we were being assured that volunteer host communities will have the right to withdraw right up to late in the process whilst the previous day it was reported in the national press that another representative had stated ”Whilst the opinions of local communities would be taken into account he accepted that ultimately the Secretary of State now had the power to override communities”.
2.2 Do you have evidence, examples or experience of community representation bodies or structures that have worked well in the siting of large projects?
What roles and responsibilities were necessary for the body/bodies to properly represent the community?
Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
The construction of a GDF is a huge development with unique problems requiring extensive consultation, including the provision of substantial amounts of balanced (not one-sided and biased) information. A whole range of individuals and their representatives (including parish, town, district and county councils) need to be involved as well as some business and other organisations.
The previous MRWS process had serious faults but succeeded in coming to the decision to reject the proposal to move onto stage 4. There remains the fear that the inclusion of the phrase “UK Government is currently of the view that no one tier of local government should be able to prevent the participation of other members of that community” has been inserted specifically to exclude the possibility of a County Council, such as Cumbria CC, having a say on the most significant development that might ever take place within the county. As such, if this is the case, it appears totally undemocratic and contrary to the principle of localism.
2.3 A community representation body (or bodies) will need to ensure that the developer is held to account in providing information to the community engaging in formal discussions. It will also hold the responsibility for deciding if and when to withdraw from these discussions.
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of governance and decision making approaches in relation to community involvement in large scale infrastructure projects that would be applicable to a community representation body for the siting of a GDF?
Full disclosure of information is essential including details of divergences in opinion. With GDFs now classified as NSIPs, the ultimate decision could rest with the Secretary of State rather than the Community Representation Body.
2.4 Could you provide examples of where the approach set out above has been used and how it contributed to the successful delivery of a project? Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
2.5 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Call for Evidence Question 3: How to manage and disburse Community Investment
3.1 Substantial investment will be made available to communities engaging in the siting process for a GDF (up to £1m per community initially, rising to £2.5m later in the process).
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of methods for disbursing community investment of this scale – including the body that manages the funding, how capacity can be built to disburse investment in the most productive way, and the ability of communities to influence investment within their geographic areas?
These sums of money might seem very attractive in some of the more deprived parts of the country but would be insignificant in others. In our opinion the safety aspects are far more important than the inducements on offer to encourage communities to volunteer.
It is a sad reflection on the nuclear industry that despite its long association with West Cumbria there remains so much deprivation in that region. Any funding on offer to a volunteer community should be very long term to reflect the indefinite potential risks associated with hosting a GDF.
3.2 Please provide examples of where this approach has been used and how it contributed to the successful delivery community investment projects. Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
3.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Call for Evidence Question 4: How to deliver a test of public support
4.1 The policy set out in the 2014 White Paper is that a GDF will not be constructed unless there has been a positive test of local support for hosting a GDF at the site in question. This test of public support will be a direct community based decision, taken by the people in the local community.
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of how the views and opinions of a community can be most effectively sought? Responses could include the method by which a final public test of support should be taken, and methods to identify whose views should be sought in such a test (e.g. territorial, interest or population extent).
It is not just a case of obtaining a positive test of public support at the site in question. Whilst this would be essential it would also be vital to obtain the support of those in surrounding areas that could be affected. County or even national borders could be crossed in the process. On a matter of such importance public support should be tested by a referendum at each of three stages – the initial decision to enter the area for consideration by RWM, the decision to allow intrusive investigations, and the final decision to go ahead with the GDF.
4.2 Could you provide examples of where this approach has been used? Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
4.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Call for Evidence Question 5: Is there any other information or background research that you think would be useful to the CRWG?
Call for Evidence Question 6: Further Information
For some respondents we would like to follow up with additional questions. Are you happy to be contacted for further information if required?
When the Call for Evidence ends, we may publish or make public the evidence submitted. Also, members of the public may ask for a copy of responses under freedom of information legislation.
If you do not want your response – including your name, contact details and any other personal information – to be publicly available, please say so clearly in writing when you send your response to the Call for Evidence. Please note, if your computer automatically includes a confidentiality disclaimer that will not count as a confidentiality request.
Please explain why you need to keep details confidential. We will take your reasons into account if someone asks for this information under information legislation. However, we must comply with relevant legislation and cannot promise that we will always be able to keep those details confidential.