Radioactive bombshell as secretary of state Eric Pickles approves waste plan for Augean site at King’s Cliffe

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CAMPAIGNERS are devastated to have lost their fight against a company’s plans to dump radioactive waste in their village.

Residents of King’s Cliffe and the surrounding villages have been in a two-year battle with hazardous waste company Augean which wants to dump “low level” radioactive waste at its site in Stamford Road.

Northamptonshire County Council had refused planning permission and 98 per cent of people who took part in local referendums opposed the plans, but this week government minister Eric Pickles gave his backing.

After seeking expert advice Mr Pickles said he was satisfied the waste “would not be harmful to the local community”.

Campaigners from the King’s Cliffe Waster Watchers and Local Democracy In Action are shocked by the decision.

Chairman of Local Democracy in Action, Robin Gifford, said: “We are extremely shocked and angry. We will be taking legal advice and depending on what is said, will be taking further action.

“This is not the end.”

Waste watchers campaigner Clare Langan said: “We are particularly appalled by the scant weight given by the Secretary of State to residents’ genuinely-held fears and the fact that cash savings over two years are given more importance than the long-term health and viability of the local communities.

“People will be angered to learn that the Secretary of State believes that because the community seems to have become accustomed to the hazardous waste foisted on it in the past, it will now accept the dumping of radioactive waste.”

Augean already deals with hazardous waste at the site in King’s Cliffe, including asbestos, but the new planning permission and a permit granted by the Environment Agency will allow it to deal with low level radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear power plants and hospitals.

Augean’s technical director, Dr Gene Wilson, welcomed this week’s decision.

He said: “Naturally we are very pleased that our planning application has withstood the close examination of the inquiry and that the Secretary of State has upheld our proposals.

“We hope members of the local community who have had reservations about these proposals can be reassured that both the Secretary of State and the Environment Agency would not authorise permission for disposal of these wastes unless they were completely satisfied that they present negligible risk to human health or the environment.

“We consider ourselves to be part of the community in which we operate and strive to be a good neighbour; minimising the impact of our business where we can.

“Augean looks forward to continue working with the local community and their elected representatives as we take these proposals forward.”

Campaigners plan to continue their fight against the plans.

MP’s view

CAMPAIGNERS had called on the help of their local MP to fight Augean’s plans to dump radioactive waste in King’s Cliffe.

Corby and Northamptonshire MP Louise Bagshawe joined a group of villagers who delivered a petition to the government last month.

She said: “I am hugely disappointed by this decision. Residents of King’s Cliffe and its surrounding villages will be outraged and worried in equal measure when they hear this news.

“Local people have made it abundantly clear they do not want this nuclear waste dump on their doorsteps and I think it is unbelievable that this application has now been approved, given nearly 99 per cent of voters indicated ‘no’ at the Parish Poll. “I will be writing to the Secretary of State to press him further about the reasons for approving this application and I will similarly be putting written Parliamentary Questions to him.”

Environment Agency

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency granted Augean a permit to dispose of its radioactive waste following the decision by government minister Eric Pickles on Wednesday.

Experts say it follows a rigorous assessment of the company’s application, extensive consultation with the local community and approval from the European Commission.

The permit allows Augean to deal with low level radioactive waste but also restricts the amount of waste which can be handled at the site to maintain its safety.

Environment manager Simon Mitchell said: “It is our job to ensure any waste sent to land fill is disposed of in a way which protects people and the environment.

“I want to assure the local community that we have approved this permit because we are satisfied our high environmental standards have been met.”

Augean will be required to carry out regular checks to make sure the conditions of the permit are met.

Augean

PEOPLE opposing Augean’s plans had raised concerns about the impact radioactive waste could have on the health of local residents.

Technical director Dr Gene Wilson has explained that the levels staff will be dealing with are well within national guidelines.

He said exposure to radiation is measured in milliSieverts (mSv) and that Government exposure levels are no more than 20mSv for radiation workers and 1mSv for the public.

Dr Wilson has said materials dealt with at the site in King’s Cliffe will measure no more than 1mSv for workers and 0.02mSv for the public per year.

The average annual exposure in Northamptonshire from natural sources in 3.6mSv per year.

Secretary of state

THE MAN who approved plans for Augean to dump radioactive waste at its site in King’s Cliffe has come under fire for backtracking on his own campaign for localism.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has been a strong advocate for empowering local communities and giving them a voice when it comes to local issues and decisions which will affect them.

But despite strong opposition from residents, including 98 per cent of people who voted in referendums opposing the plans, Mr Pickles granted planning permission.

A spokesman from King’s Cliffe Waste Watchers said: “People will be shocked and appalled at this decision from a Secretary of State currently engaged in pushing his Localism Bill through Parliament.

“The plans to dump radioactive waste here have been thrown out by parish, district and county councils. More than 3,000 local people signed a petition objecting to the scheme, and 13 villages in Northamptonshire and Rutland held referendums, with 98 per cent of those who voted objecting.

“How on earth does that square with localism and the government’s commitment to ending top-down planning decisions and giving local communities more say on decisions which affect them?

“It is hard to imagine any planning decision which would affect a community more than dumping radioactive waste on its doorstep.”

Corby and East Northamptonshire MP Louise Bagshawe has echoed their views.

She said: “It is clear that the localism agenda is about taking local people’s views and feelings into account, especially when it comes to planning decisions of this magnitude.

“In this case, the views of residents of King’s Cliffe and surrounding East Northamptonshire have been ignored and there are some serious questions that need answering.”

Chairman of Local Democracy in Action, Robin Gifford, said: “What really angers us is that Eric Pickles has expressly stated that he is in favour of localism and local people influencing local decisions but then he goes against us.”

Public campaign

PROTEST group Local Democracy in Action organised referendums on Thursday, April 6 for 11 villages and 98 per cent of villagers who went to the polls wanted their parish councils to strongly object to the radioactive waste dumping plans.

There was an overall turnout of 46 per cent, with 1,696 answering yes to whether they wanted their parish council to “strongly object” to the disposal of radioactive waste in the landfill and only 36 people answering no.

Barrowden Parish Council organised its own referendum, which took place the same day and 238 people voted to back their council’s objection with nine voting no.

A referendum was held in Yarwell the following week and 136 people voted. A total of 127 people voted yes, there were seven no votes and two spoiled papers.

A separate survey in Tixover was also overwhelmingly against the dumping plans and a petition was collected in Ketton.

The results of the referendum were presented to a representative of government minister Eric Pickles by East Northamptonshire MP Louise Bagshawe.