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Back in 1995 Gosforth and District Action Group Put Up Billboards: "Burying Nuclear Waste Will Come Back to Haunt Us All"

Today the nuclear industry are burying the views of local folk in so-called "Community Partnerships" and skewed unrepresentational "polls".


Read about the billboards here



image: Burying Nuclear Waste Will Come Back to Haunt Us, 1995 Billboard - credit Lakes Against Nuclear Dump


And read below for an excellent expose by Nuclear Free Local Authorities on the lack of democracy - of course there is the reality that the NIREX inquiry of 1997 and subsequent MRWS failure of 2013 should have put paid to the deep burial of nuclear wastes (Cumbria is prime target) and that there should now be a Moratorium on the Geological Disposal Facility plans in the UK with the halting of new wastes arriving in Cumbria.


NFLA media release, 2 January 2024, For immediate use

Scared of getting the wrong answer? NFLAs remain convinced local polls have value.

In a recent letter to the Nuclear Free Local Authorities English Forum Chair, the Leader of Cumberland Council Councillor Fryer advises that he sees ‘no reason’ for parish and town councils in the two Search Areas in Cumbria under consideration as sites for a Geological Disposal Facility to canvass their voters on this issue in a local poll.

Cllr Fryer seems to be assured by polling already being conducted by Yonder on behalf of the Mid- and South Copeland GDF Community Partnerships as ‘that work [is] providing important information about whether a particular community might or might not be likely to support the construction of a GDF in that area’.

With co-correspondents, Councillor Blackburn had previously written to the local councils suggesting they might want to consider following the example set by Whicham Parish Council which almost one year ago conducted a postal ballot amongst parishioners.

The suggestion was made so other local parish and town councillors might be equally informed of local opinion about the controversial plan to locate a nuclear waste dump in either Search Area and will be able to act accordingly when serving and voting on the two Community Partnerships.

The postal poll carried out by Whicham Parish Council in the South Copeland GDF Search Area elicited a 62.78% response from its 400 parishioners. The results, verified by the council’s auditors, were: In favour – 15.15%; Against – 76.62%; Don’t Know – 6.49%; and Blank forms – 1.73%.

In contrast, Yonder reported that, between July and August 2023, 182 people living in Gosforth ward and, prior to that, in June 2023 187 people in the Millom and Millom Without wards were surveyed.

Gosforth ward constitutes the Mid-Copeland GDF Search Area and Millom and Millom Without wards the South Copeland GDF Search Area. Gosforth had 4,716 registered voters, Millom Without 3,870, and Millom 4,339 at the time of the May 2022 elections to the new Cumberland Council.

The survey sample of 182 people in Gosforth is only 3.86% of the total electorate and 187 only 2.28% of the combined electorates of Millom Without and Millom.

However, Yonder says in its published report on South Copeland that they also surveyed 16 year olds who cannot vote and are not on the register, so the percentage of registered voters is even lower.

Cllr Fryer advises that ‘detailed public opinion monitoring’ is being carried out, but in the research findings published by Yonder of its work in South Copeland, the pollsters conceded they only conducted ten in-depth interviews.

For Whicham, conducting the poll was clearly valuable, with Parish Councillors resolving at their meeting of 1 March 2023:

‘that the Parish Council accept the results of the survey conducted in January 2023 and will continue to represent the Parish at the South Copeland Community Partnership in line with the views of the Parish. Cllr Cumming to forward a copy of the results and the comments made by residents to the South Copeland Community Partnership’.

Elsewhere in Lincolnshire, Councillor Travis Hesketh, who was elected specifically to oppose plans for a Geological Disposal Facility in his ward of Theddlethorpe, has recently reported to the NFLAs that the experience of his local parish council mirrors that of Whicham.

A poll by Theddlethorpe Parish Council of 550 local people received 297 responses. Over 250 of those responding (85%) were opposed to the dump and only 11 (3.7%) supported it.

Like Whicham, Theddlethorpe is also then clearly an ‘unwilling community’.

To the NFLAs postal polls have value as they can not only clearly garner a tremendous response but they can also be conducted very cheaply, with Whicham reporting the exercise cost the parish council the princely sum of £145.34, about 58 pence per reply.

The NFLAs have submitted a Freedom of Information request to Nuclear Waste Services requesting details of the cost of engaging Yonder, which includes paying some participants to be surveyed.

NFLA English Forum Chair Cllr David Blackburn concurs with Cllr Fryer that local people should be ‘properly informed’ about the GDF, so long as they receive information both for and against, but believes that it is even more important for local elected members to be informed about their electors’ views on this issue:

“Local polls conducted by post have at Whicham and Theddlethorpe proven to be effective in soliciting responses and are cheap to conduct. I would commend local parish and town councils to consider holding their own in early 2024 so the elected member they appoint to the Community Partnership can act in accordance with local public opinion on this incredibly important issue.

“We look forward to hearing back from the local councils who have already indicated that they will consider this, and I thank them for that, and I would urge those still to reply to my letter to consider doing so. After all, with such an important issue, in a true democracy, why should any elected member fear holding a poll? Are they perhaps scared of getting the ‘wrong’ answer?”

Ends//…For further information please contact the NFLA Secretary, Richard Outram, by email at richard.outram@manchester.gov.uk

Notes to the Editors

The letter sent by NFLA English Forum Chair Cllr David Blackburn, Cumberland Council Cllr Jill Perry and Jan Bridget, Co-founder of Millom against the Nuclear Waste Dump to the Parish Clerks of Beckermet with Thornhill Parish Council, Drigg and Carleton Parish Council, Gosforth Parish Council , Millom Town Council, Millom Without Parish Council, Ponsonby Parish Council, and Seascale Parish Council.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Dear Parish Clerk,

With reference to the pursuit of the possible proposal to bring a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to your area, in January of this year Whicham Parish Council chose to conduct a postal survey amongst its electors / parishioners to determine their views about said development to ensure that Parish Councillors were aware of, and reflected, these views in their interactions with the Community Partnership and Nuclear Waste Services.

62.78% of those receiving the questionnaire responded. Of these 15.15% were in favour of the GDF, 76.62% against, 6.49% undecided and 1.73% returned blank. The survey comprised 400 responses.

We are now nearly twelve months on in the process and electors/parishioners in your own parish or town council will have received a further year of information from the Community Partnership and Nuclear Waste Services, and invitations from them to attend community events. As a result, they should – theoretically – be better informed about what GDF will mean to them, their family and their community and consequently better placed to express an opinion in a survey covering the Council area.

Councillors stand for election in order to serve their community, and we are confident that your elected representatives will also be forthright in expressing this view. Accordingly, might we therefore enquire as to whether your Parish Council intends to follow Whicham’s lead in conducting its own postal survey amongst its parishioners in early 2024 so that your elected members may become appraised of local feeling on this most important issue and therefore best able to reflect these views when dealing with the Community Partnership and Nuclear Waste Services?

And if it does not intend to conduct such a survey, in order that we might accurately report your Council’s position, please could you give us a reason(s) why?

Thank you for your attention to this enquiry. We look forward to hearing from you. Please direct your reply by email to the NFLA Secretary Richard Outram at richard.outram@manchester.gov.uk

Yours faithfully.

Councillor David Blackburn,

Chair, on behalf of the NFLA England Forum.

Councillor Jill Perry,

Cumberland Council

Jan Bridget, Co-founder,

Millom against the Nuclear Waste Dump

The letter sent to Cllr Blackburn by Cllr Fryer, Leader of Cumberland Council







Polling conducted by the two GDF Community Partnerships

The two links highlighted in Cllr Fryer’s letter are:

Mid Copeland Community Partnership Resident Research

November 8, 2023

Thanks to residents in Mid Copeland who took part in a recent survey. Between July and August 2023, a sample of 182 people living in the Mid Copeland Search Area electoral ward of Gosforth were asked questions about their awareness of the Community Partnership and geological disposal.

The Community Partnership’s preference was for the researchers to offer a mixture of face-to-face surveys (at Gosforth Agricultural Show and Rotating Wheels) and via telephone.

This is the second survey carried out in Mid Copeland Search Area to look at awareness, understanding and support of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) across the Search Area, the first one was August-October 2022, where 150 people were surveyed.

We asked the Chair of Mid Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Andy Pratt, to share his initial thoughts on the findings and independent research consultant, Yonder, to summarise the results.

Andy said: “Thank you for taking part in this survey and sharing with us your thoughts, questions and concerns around the possibility of hosting a GDF in our area.

“We’re still at the very early stages of a long process which involves gathering data and information needed to inform us if our area is suitable to progress in the search to build a facility off the coast of West Cumbria.

“The numbers of residents we surveyed this year was larger than the previous year, with many figures coming out similar to last time. Where there are large differences in data gathered, we will be working closely with stakeholders to understand these differences and address them with the community so we can ensure we provide accurate information in a format that is understandable and accessible. If you haven’t given us your opinion yet and would like to – please get in touch.”

Summary:

Over half of the people taking part in the survey (56%) would support the potential construction of a GDF in the Mid Copeland Search Area, while 15% would be opposed. This compares with 62% and 23% respectively in last year’s survey. 28% said they neither supported nor opposed the proposal (compared to 16% last year).

The NET support for the construction of a GDF in the Mid Copeland Search Area stood at +41 from this survey (compared to +39 last year). NET Support is the percentage of residents surveyed that support, minus the number that oppose (excluding those undecided).

Of respondents, 78% stated they were able to recall seeing, reading or hearing something about radioactive waste or geological disposal in the past year (compared to 79% last year) and 47% attributed this to a leaflet, newsletter, or something posted through the door. Of the 78% that recalled seeing or reading or hearing something, 46% claimed to have done something in response, such as spoken to family/friends, compared to 66% last year.

Two-in-five (40%) said they had seen and read the GDF News newsletter. Another 22% said they had seen the GDF News but not read it. Of those respondents who recalled seeing, reading or hearing something about radioactive waste or geological disposal over the past year, half said they had read the newsletter.

82% said they were aware that a Search Area covering the Gosforth electoral ward as well as areas underneath the seabed off the coast of Copeland had been identified for further investigation of its suitability for a GDF, compared to 80% last year.

46% of residents asked were aware of how the UK’s radioactive waste is stored, compared to 67% last year, while two-in five (41%) identified the accurate description of a GDF, compared to 60% last year, 30% said they had heard of the term but didn’t know what it was, compared to 28% last year.

Two-thirds (65%) supported the national policy to construct a GDF in a willing community, which was the same as last year, while 8% of those residents asked were opposed to the national policy, compared to 16% opposed last year.

NET support for the national policy stood at +57 (compared to +50 in August 2022).

The support for a GDF within Mid Copeland was higher than average among those that had a direct connection with the nuclear industry.

Respondents most often requested information about the general approach/geological disposal (37%); more information on safety (28%) and information on the impact on human health (13%). In last year’s survey the figures were: safety (40%); the potential impact on jobs/local economy (36%); more information related to human health (26%) and information about the approach/geological disposal (24%).

Over half (54%) wanted to receive more information via post, compared to 45% last year; 24% wanted to receive more information at in-person events (28% last year); whilst 12% wanted to access information online on websites (38% last year).

One-in-four (24%) cited the local council as the source of information they would like to hear more from regarding geological disposal and the siting process, 23% wanted to hear from experts, 15% wanted to hear from national government, whilst 12% sought information from nuclear industry management. Last year 44% cited they would like to hear from a local council; 28% wanted to receive more information from environmental groups; whilst the same proportion wanted to hear more from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Method:

Between July 19 and August 21, 182 residents (aged 16+) of the electoral ward of Gosforth were interviewed (which includes Seascale, Gosforth, Beckermet, Calderbridge, Haile, Thornhill, Nethertown and Braystones). The interviews were a combination of telephone interviewing and in person face-to-face interviewing. The telephone interviewing was conducted by Yonder, while the face-to-face interviewing was conducted by Red Research (an independent research agency based in Cumbria) on behalf of Yonder.

Quotas and weights were employed to ensure the sample was representative in terms of the relative populations of the ward and the age and sex profiles of the demographics in question.

South Copeland GDF Community Partnership Resident Research, June – August 2023: Results

September 18, 2023

In June 2023, independent research consultant Yonder oversaw a survey of 187 adult residents who were interviewed in person across the wards of Millom and Millom Without – the Search Area for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in South Copeland. This survey was part of a programme of continued surveys looking at local people’s awareness, understanding and support of a GDF across the Search Area, and helps to inform the Community Partnership’s approach and activities.

Earlier this year, in April 2023, the Search Area for South Copeland changed its boundary due to Local Government Reorganisation. Drigg and Carleton, and Irton with Santon, which were previously a part of the Mid Copeland Search Area, now sit in the Millom Without ward and are instead in the South Copeland Search Area. The Community Partnership requested for a distinction between the previous and current Search Area to be identified in the results.

We asked Yonder to summarise the results, and the Chair of South Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Ged McGrath, to provide his view on the findings.

Summary:

The results of the survey showed that residents remained engaged with the subject matter. Over half (57%) recalled seeing, reading or hearing something about radioactive waste or geological disposal in the past year.

42% of residents surveyed attributed their awareness of the subject matter to a leaflet or newsletter in the post. When prompted, two-in-five (39%) claimed that they had seen and read the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership newsletter and 17% claimed to have seen the newsletter but not read it. Of those that claimed to have seen and read the newsletter, a majority (81%) agreed that it was easy to understand and 69% agreed that it was informative.

Though engaged, respondents’ awareness of how radioactive waste was managed was more limited. 37% were aware of the UK’s current storage method for its radioactive waste (stored at interim surface or ground-level storage facilities at sites across the UK). One-in-five (20%) believed it was held in vaults deep underground in the UK, and a third (35%) admitted that they did not know.

Some residents’ understanding of geological disposal was also limited. One-in-five (19%) were able to identify the accurate description of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). One-in-three (34%) had heard of the term but knew nothing of it. 12% thought they were deep underground facilities that were currently used in the UK for the permanent disposal of radioactive waste, whilst 14% thought that they were near-tosurface sites where the UK currently buries low-level radioactive waste.

When considering the construction of a GDF in the South Copeland Search Area, one-in-four (27%) opposed it and 39% were supportive. One-in-three (32%) were neutral towards a proposed GDF within the South Copeland Search Area.

Appetite for information about geological disposal and the siting process remained high. Respondents most often requested general information about the approach / geological disposal (34%). One-in-five (22%) wanted information relating to the location of the Search Area or the potential site, whilst 19% wanted information on safety. Half of those surveyed wanted to receive information via post. 15% wanted information via in-person meetings / events and 14% cited Facebook. One-in-five (20%) said that they did not want to receive any information.

These community survey results and the previous community survey results in 2022 are compared in the full report below. In addition, the results are broken down to show the impact of the new Search Area additions, Drigg and Carleton and Irton and Santon, which were minimal.

Reaction of the Chair of South Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Ged McGrath:

“This research provides another insight into residents’ awareness and understanding of the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership and their views on geological disposal.

“In April 2023 the South Copeland Search Area changed due to Local Government Reorganisation, and interestingly, the results of this survey were largely the same when comparing its data from the former Search Area with the revised Search Area, which incorporates Drigg and Carleton, and Irton and Santon.

“There are, however, some noticeable differences between the results of this survey and the previous survey in 2022, and it’s clear that more regular surveying will provide further information about the community’s opinions and information needs. We now plan to survey local residents more frequently, hopefully with another round of research in November.

“It’s important to note that we’re in the early stages of engaging with local people on this subject. We’re listening to everyone’s views and information needs, and we will continue to do so, having many conversations, gaining feedback and providing answers, so that the community can make an informed decision.

“If a suitable site is found in South Copeland – a decision which could take 10-15 years – a Test of Public Support would ensure the local community decides whether or not they want a GDF in the area. That’s why it’s really important that we, as a Partnership, understand local people’s feelings and requirements so that we can best serve you in this process.”

Methodological statement:

Between 6 and 14 June 2023, Yonder oversaw a survey of 187 adult residents who were interviewed in person across the wards of Millom and Millom Without. Quotas were employed to ensure the resident sample was representative of the relative populations of the two wards. The way the survey was designed means that 187 people’s views were representative of the wider population. Quotas and weights were employed to ensure the random sample was representative in terms of the relative populations of the two wards and the age and sex profiles of the area in question. With a sample of 187 and a 95% confidence interval, a +/-7% margin of error is expected, so this gives a good indication of views across the Search Area which is roughly comparable with similar research conducted in 2022.

The change to the South Copeland Search Area following Local Government Reorganisation meant that residents in Drigg and Carleton and Irton with Santon (who were previously in the Mid Copeland Search Area) were included in the research.

The research was published on the website:

Yonder is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Yonder was formerly known as Populus and changed trading names in October 2020. For more information, see www.yonderconsulting.com.

Richard Outram, BA (Hons),

Secretary, UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and Mayors for Peace Chapter Secretary,

City Policy, Manchester City Council

+44 (0) 7583 097793

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