Six released on caution following radioactive waste demonstration at King’s Cliffe

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SIX protesters were released with a police caution after a demonstration outside a tip over plans to dump low-level radioactive waste in King’s Cliffe.

The six men, aged between 30 and 60, were arrested on Friday after a demonstration outside a tip over plans to dump low-level radioactive waste in King’s Cliffe.

Matthew Kirk and Chris Leauchars protest against the dumping of low-level nuclear waste near King's Cliffe on Friday morning (2 December). Photo: Stamford Mercury

Matthew Kirk and Chris Leauchars protest against the dumping of low-level nuclear waste near King's Cliffe on Friday morning (2 December). Photo: Stamford Mercury

But they were later released with a caution.

About 20 campaigners arrived at the East Northants Resource Management Facility in Stamford Road, which is run by Augean, at 5.30am on Friday morning.

Police arrived at about 7am and warned any protesters in front of the gate they would be arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass. They were protesting about Augean’s intentions to dump low-level radioactive waste at the site.

The decision to allow Augean to dump the waste was upheld at the High Court in November and campaigners won the right to appeal against the decision this week. The appeal will be heard in January.

But the judge refused to grant an order barring Augean from dumping the waste, which the company then said it intended to do.

Staff at Augean were yesterday unable to enter the site and during the morning, the gates stayed chained shut.

Four of the protesters had secured themselves to two barrels filled with concrete and police were forced to call in specialist officers from the tactical support group at Cambridgeshire police to cut them free.

They were arrested before they were freed and once their arms had been released from a V-shaped steel tube, they were taken away.

As the last two people attached to a barrel were released, the watching protesters cheered and sang For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

Two ambulances were also there to check on the condition of those arrested.

Two other protesters were arrested on the same charge of suspicion of aggravated trespass earlier at about 10am.

All those arrested were men, including Chris Leuchars, a leading member of protest group Waste Watchers.

Speaking before his arrest, Mr Leuchars, of King’s Cliffe, said: “The situation is that we have had leave to appeal but Augean have publicly indicated they are going to dump the waste anyway, which is an irreversible action. “Once low-level radioactive waste gets in there, it is unlikely it will all come out again so what we are doing here is a public service, as well as our own protest.” He said the protesters there were a mixture of members of Waste Watchers, Local Democracy in Action which was set up to run local referendums on the plans and concerned residents.

Mr Leuchars said: “This is a matter of national importance. If we don’t stand up and do something then no-one else is going to. We want a proper debate and a proper decision.

“I am prepared to be arrested for the cause and we knew that was the logical consequence of what we are doing here today.”

Protesters shared soup with each other and the 20 police officers at the scene to keep warm and Paula Boulton, who had come from Corby to join the demonstration, played songs on a guitar.

One also dressed as a pantomime horse with a banner saying the way the case had been dealt with was a “farce”.

Peter Kerruish, one of the protesters who lives in Apethorpe, said that he was supporting the protest because the views of local people had not been listened to.

He said: “East Northamptonshire District Council, Northamptonshire County Council, a local referendum with a good turnout had a resounding 98 per cent response saying no to these plans and that has not been listened to.

“Our hands have been forced by the decisions which have been taken.”

Corby and East Northamptonshire MP Louise Mensch (Con), who has previously supported the Waste Watchers group was invited to attend the demonstration but didn’t turn up.

Six protesters, who stayed at the site on a grassed verge, waved their banners at lorries as they started arriving the site at about 1.15pm.

The protesters and police had left by 2pm.

Inspector Nick Lyall, from Northamptonshire police, said: “We tried to negotiate with the protesters and some of them engaged with us and moved to the side.

“People have a right to protest but there is a line in the sand and when people start breaking the law, then unfortunately we have to taken action and arrest people.

“It’s gone as well as it could go.”

A spokesman for Augean said the company respected the right to protest but was concerned about the unlawful actions this morning which it says resulted in a contractor’s car being damaged.

He said: “The action has been taken by a small group of people, several of which do not appear to be from the locality. This action prevents the company from carrying out its lawful business and disrupts the valuable service it provides to the wider community to safely dispose of hazardous wastes.

“Augean took immediate action to divert the vehicles due at the site to a safe location, so that the action of the protesters did not result in unnecessary transport of hazardous waste on the highway.

“The police were informed and have taken action to move protesters on so that our business can continue uninterrupted and so that they cease to be a threat to their own and public safety on Stamford Road. The site is now operational and fulfilling its commercial activities.”

The spokesman said that, on advice from the police, the public would not be advised when the site starts accepting radioactive waste.

A police spokesman said the six men arrested were aged between 30 and 60 and were still being questioned at Corby police station this afternoon.