Victory: NFLAs welcome Council vote on South Holderness nuke dump plan

1 month ago 22

The UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have welcomed today’s (21 February) overwhelming decision by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to withdraw South Holderness from further consideration as a potential location for a high-level radioactive waste dump.

A motion was brought by South East Holderness Ward Councillor Sean McMaster to a meeting of the Full Council calling for the Council to ‘use its right of withdrawal with immediate effect due to the strong opposition from the communities of South Holderness’ . The Leader of the Council, Councillor Anne Handley, had already indicated her support for the motion, as had the Leaders of the Opposition Groups. Consequently, the motion was carried on a cross-party basis with 53 in favour and only 1 against.

News that the area was under consideration by Nuclear Waste Services was only announced in late January, with Invest East Yorkshire listed as the ‘Interested Party’ and a Working Group established with Dr David Richards as Chair.

The news prompted a massive public backlash with local people in the hundreds flocking to join a Facebook group, South Holderness against the GDF. Tens of thousands of leaflets have been distributed by local volunteers who have been pounding the streets in all weathers to inform residents of their reasons for opposing the plan, whilst 1,200 local people attended the first round of public events hosted by NWS staff, many to register their opposition and pose challenging questions to geologists from the nuclear industry. Chair Lynn Massey-Davis appeared in the first few days of the campaign to challenge the legitimacy of the dump in a spirited performance in a television interview with Peter Levy on BBC Look North.

The NFLAs have been proud to have offered some advice to the group and to local politicians at the Withernsea Town and East Riding Councils. Following an online conversation with the Labour Group Leader, Councillor Steve Gallant, the NFLA Secretary produced a bespoke briefing on the Right to Withdraw (see notes) for circulation to Councillors.

The impact of this decision will be profound. Under the published Community Guidance governing the GDF siting process, consideration of any Search Area must have the support of a Relevant Principal Local Authority (RPLA). The East Riding of Yorkshire Council is the RPLA for South Holderness and as such has the Right to Withdraw. Although the Community Guidance is vague and contradictory, appearing both to suggest that withdrawal can occur at any time or only once a Community Partnership is formed, it is clear that there will be little point NWS investing further money, time and staff resources on taking its plan forward at this early stage without political support; clearly then the process must soon come to an end.

Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of the NFLAs English Forum, was full of praise for local campaigners:

“Speaking personally as a regular holidaymaker to Withernsea, a part of the world that I know and love, I welcome today’s news. It is clear that many local people also love the unique environment and community spirit of South Holderness, and this shared love brought them together to establish an effective campaign in a very short time to oppose this plan. I commend them all for their collective efforts and commitment, most especially Lynn Massey-Davis and Mike Davis for establishing the Facebook page and bringing people together. This victory is yours!”

Commenting on the vote, Cllr Blackburn added:

“I am glad that Councillors of all parties saw sense and supported this motion on a cross-party basis. South Holderness is an agricultural and touristic area and as such was never appropriate for consideration for a nuclear waste dump. So what I do find inexplicable is why the Leader of the Council ever agreed for East Riding of Yorkshire Council to engage with the process and become a member of the Working Group in the first place, as a resolute NO would have killed the process off at the onset, as happened at Hartlepool.”

ENDS//… For more information contact NFLA Secretary Richard Outram by email to richard.outram@manchester.gov.uk

South Holderness Vote

Note to Editors

The motion brought by Councillor Sean McMaster read:

That this Council:

Considering the overwhelming response to the Nuclear Waste Services proposal for South Holderness:

1) Acknowledges that it has the right of withdrawal at any time, and there will be no cost incurred now or in the future.

2) Uses its right of withdrawal with immediate effect due to the strong opposition from the communities of South Holderness, as a promise was made to take the views of residents into account as the relevant principal local authority.

The NFLA briefing produced for Councillor Steve Gallant, Labour Group Leader on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, dated 30 January:

Subject: The Right to Withdraw

Introduction

East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) is in a unique position to dictate whether any proposal to take forward investigations into the suitability of the South Holderness Search Area to accommodate a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) progresses. It can choose to support the plan to construct a GDF into which Britain’s legacy and future high-level radioactive waste will be deposited, or it can withhold that support.

Any proposal to take forward a prospective Search Area must have the support of at least one Relevant Principal Local Authority (RPLA). As the upper tier local authority for South Holderness ERYC is the RPLA.

The RPLA can choose to exercise its Right to Withdraw, whether unilaterally or after consultation with the potential host community, from the process at any point up that when a final Test of Public Support is held.

(Hartlepool Borough Council refused to endorse a GDF proposal there and so it died at inception).

Similarly Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) can also withdraw from the process.

(This it has done in the case of Allerdale citing insufficient suitable geology).

If the RPLA or NWS chooses to exercise the Right to Withdraw, the process ENDS.

The Right to Withdraw

From the Community Guidance England, Page 34:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/6256b1f8d3bf7f6006f846e5/Community_Guidance_England.pdf

All relevant principal local authorities must be invited to join the Working Group and the Community Partnership when it is formed. Whilst it is Government’s preference, there is no obligation for them to join the Working Group. However, in order to form a Community Partnership, at least one relevant principal local authority must join. The Government has decided that relevant principal local authorities will take two key decisions in the process to identify a potentially suitable site. This is because they play a crucial role in respect of planning, infrastructure development and service provision, this will also ensure democratic accountability. As such, they will have the final say on: • whether to seek to withdraw the community from the siting process (through invoking the Right of Withdrawal); • if or when to seek the community’s views on whether it wishes to host a GDF (by proceeding to a Test of Public Support)

From Developing the Community Partnership Agreement, Page 7:

13.2 The Community Right of Withdrawal

13.2.1 The community may be withdrawn from the siting process at any point up until a Test of Public Support is taken.

13.2.2 The Members acknowledge: (a) The decision on whether to invoke the Community Right of Withdrawal will be taken by the RPLA Member(s) on the Community Partnership; (b) Where the RPLA Member(s) decide to seek the views of the residents in the Search Area (or, once identified, the Potential Host Community) on whether to invoke the Community Right of Withdrawal, then the decision as to the most appropriate method for the RPLA Member(s) to use: (i) Shall be a decision for all the RPLA Members and the Community Members but exclude RWM; and (ii) The chosen consultation method must be recorded in writing and annexed to this MoU in Schedule [……].

13.2.3 RWM [Now called Nuclear Waste Services], as a Member of the Community Partnership, will be able to participate in discussions on the Community Right of Withdrawal save that RWM will not take part in any decisions/ votes regarding the Community Right of Withdrawal.

13.2.4 Once the Community Right of Withdrawal is exercised, the siting process in that community will come to an end (in accordance with Clause 4 above). The allocation of CIF [Community Investment Fund] will also end, save for any CIF that has already been committed during that financial year, which will be honoured.

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