The following press release is from the Nuclear Free Local Authorities - on the shenanigans of the fake surveys aka "public consultation events" being carried out by the nuclear industry and their patsy partners in nuclear dump crimes.
6th February 2024
Energy Minister Stuart urged to support ‘copper-bottomed’ GDF referendums for all
The UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have written to Energy Minister Graham Stuart urging him to ensure that all of the communities faced with the possibility of a nuclear waste dump are able to vote in a local referendum on whether they accept it.
Nuclear Waste Services have recently announced that South Holderness in the East Riding of Yorkshire is now the fourth Search Area being considered to host a Geological Disposal Facility. A Working Group and an Independent Chair Dr David Richards have been appointed to examine this possibility and NWS have arranged an initial programme of public consultation events. In response, the local MP for Beverley and Holderness, The Rt Hon Graham Stuart, has launched a petition calling for his constituents to be given a ‘copper-bottomed guarantee’ of a local referendum on the proposal.
The final selection of the GDF site will ultimately be dependent upon two key factors – the suitability of the geology and the consent of the prospective host community; consent being determined by holding a Test of Public Support. The timing of the Test is down to the decision of senior politicians in the Relevant Principal Local Authority / ies – in South Holderness’s case the East Riding of Yorkshire Council – but the format for the Test will ultimately be the choice of the Community Partnership that will over time replace the Working Group.
Within the Community Guidance governing the GDF process there is no prescription that the Test will be in the form of a referendum amongst affected residents. Graham Stuart has called for such a guarantee as the best representation of community consent.
The NFLAs agree – indeed we published a comprehensive briefing about our aspiration for referendums and their conduct almost a month before Mr Stuart’s call (https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/briefings/nfla-policy-briefing-285-challenging-questions-concerning-the-gdf-test-of-public-support/). In his letter to Mr Stuart, NFLA English Forum Chair Councillor David Blackburn has made clear that ‘we would also like to see such a promise made to the people in the Theddlethorpe, Mid-Copeland, and South Copeland Search Areas, and indeed those living in any other area faced with the prospect of a GDF’.
It is reasonable to expect there to be a period after an announcement that a community is under consideration as a GDF Search Area during which members of that community may receive information both in favour of or in opposition to the proposal, and ask questions, but the NFLAs believe that thereafter there should be a Test of Public Support at an early stage of the GDF process, in addition to another at the end of the 10-15 year investigative and consultation period. To us, it seems ‘totally unreasonable to expect people to live for such a prolonged period with the profound uncertainty and worry, and the consequent impact on mental and physical health’ when faced by the prospect of such a major construction and engineering project.
Councillor Blackburn has asked Mr Stuart in his capacity as the Minister of State in the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, the department responsible for policies relating to the disposal of nuclear waste, to urge his colleagues and civil servants to change the Community Guidance to ensure each impacted community are guaranteed a local referendum as the Test of Public Support, and that such a Test is conducted near the start, as well as towards the end, of the site selection process.
However pragmatically this will take time, and involve consultation with Nuclear Waste Services and consultation with the Community Partnerships already established in each of the other three GDF Search Area, so the NFLAs has another suggestion to take the temperature of public opinion in South Holderness in the near future.
Councillor Blackburn explained: “East Riding Council is in a unique position as the Relevant Principal Local Authority for South Holderness, as the GDF Community Guidance designates it.
“It can think again and, in the face of the manifest and building public hostility, either choose immediately to exercise its Right to Withdraw from the process or choose first to ballot the local community through a local referendum as is permitted under the Local Government Acts of 1972 and 2003 before making that decision. A unilateral withdrawal or a decision to withdraw if a local referendum returns a no vote will mean Nuclear Waste Services will in turn withdraw from the area and the process will be ended.
“I would urge Mr Stuart to talk with the Conservative Councillors who form the Council’s minority administration to urge them to take one of these two actions.”
Ends://… For more information, please contact the NFLA Secretary Richard Outram by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for Editors
The letter sent today to The Rt Hon Graham Stuart as MP for Beverley and Holderness reads:
The Rt Hon Graham Stuart,MP for Beverley and Holderness,9 Cross Street,Beverley,The East Riding of YorkshireHU17 9AX
6 February 2024
Dear Mr. Stuart,
I am the Chair of the English Forum of the UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLAs). We have corresponded previously in your capacity as Minister of State in the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, but I am now writing to you as the constituency MP for Beverley and Holderness specifically with reference to your launch on 30th January of a petition calling for a referendum on the potential Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in Holderness.
As you will be aware, the UK Government and nuclear industry have committed to a consent-based approach to the siting of a GDF. This means that although Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) shall be responsible for determining the suitability of the geology to accommodate the requirements of a GDF, the eventual decision will come down to a Test of Public Support.
Like you, the NFLAs have stated their support for the use of referendums as the preferred final Test of Public Support in all potential locations, however there are three fundamental failings in the current Community Guidance governing the GDF process in connection with such a Test:
It does not specify what the format of the Test will be.
The Test can be inconsistent between Search Areas as its format is determined by the Community Partnership in each area.
There is no provision for taking a Test near the beginning of the process, after an initial period of public consultation identifying the pro’s and con’s, as well as at the end.
On your website you say: “the people of Holderness deserve the final say on our future. That doesn’t mean a telephone survey. It doesn’t mean a few meetings in village halls, important as those are.
“We should have a meaningful say in the future of our area and before we start talking about anything else, we need a copper-bottomed guarantee that we will have a referendum on the nuclear waste facility.
“They (NWS) want our consent. We want meaningful consent through a referendum.”
We concur, and we would also like to see such a promise made to the people in the Theddlethorpe, Mid-Copeland, and South Copeland Search Areas, and indeed those living in any other area faced with the prospect of a GDF.
Unfortunately, the current model is predicated upon a Test being taken as the final stage of site selection, and there is no promise that it will be a referendum.
Under current guidance, the Test is expected to occur after an extensive period of geological and environmental surveys and public consultation that could last between 10-15 years. It is in our view totally unreasonable to expect people to live for such a prolonged period with the profound uncertainty and worry, and the consequent impact on mental and physical health, that the prospect of a GDF – a massive engineering project that will have an indelible impact on any host community – will cause them without having some early say on its acceptability.
We would therefore like to request that you use your influence as a Minister within the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero to speak with your ministerial colleagues and departmental civil servants to make changes in a revised version of the Community Guidance to provide also for a referendum near the start of the process, and for a referendum to be the model Test of Public Support.
However, this will take time and involve liaison with Nuclear Waste Services and existing Community Partnerships, so if you do want to see a referendum as soon as possible for the electors of South Holderness, our advice would be to apply your influence in changing the mindset of the Conservative Administration at the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to hold a referendum under existing legislation.
ERYC is in the unique – and perhaps unenviable – position of being in the driving seat when it comes to the GDF process. For any proposal to take forward a GDF must have the support of at least one Relevant Principal Local Authority. In the case of South Holderness, ERYC is that authority and as such can choose – at any point until a Test of Public Support is taken – to exercise its Right to Withdraw from the process, and there is provision (though this is optional) to consult with local people before it decides whether to do so.
ERYC could then either exercise its Right to Withdraw unilaterally, or it could choose to first test public support before making its decision by holding a local referendum using its powers under Section 116 of the Local Government Act 2003 and Section 141 of the Local Government Act 1972.
On 2 January, the NFLAs produced a comprehensive briefing which we titled ‘Challenging Questions concerning the GDF Test of Public Support’ where we list the circumstances in which a referendum can currently be held, the inconsistencies and inadequacies of the present process for the holding of Tests of Public Support, and our aspirations for the conduct of future Tests based on the model of a referendum referencing the best practice established in local and general elections..
To assist you, I have taken the liberty to send this as an attachment (but it can also be found on our website at https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/briefings/nfla-policy-briefing-285-challenging-questions-concerning-the-gdf-test-of-public-support/). I finish by offering the advice and assistance of our NFLA Secretary in pursuing these endeavours.
Thank you for considering this letter and the attachment. Please in the first instance direct any response to our NFLA Secretary Richard Outram by email to email@example.com
Councillor David Blackburn,Chair, on behalf of the NFLA England Forum.