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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Impact of nuclear dump on Cumbria's tourism 'inconclusive'

One of the biggest fears over the proposed siting of an underground nuclear waste storage facility in west Cumbria is the potential impact on tourism leading to the Lake District being branded toxic.

John Clarke photo
John Clarke, NDA chief executive

Tomorrow senior councillors from three local authorities – Cumbria county, Allerdale and Copeland councils – are due to decide whether or not they stay in the running to have the repository in their areas.

During the process a number of bodies have been monitoring progress as well as getting expert advice.

Richard Greenwood, Cumbria Tourism’s policy and performance director, said it was widely known that the storage of nuclear waste was a major challenge but it was a problem which needed to be addressed.

He added: “Cumbria Tourism has engaged in the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) consultation exercise and after very careful consideration of the facts currently available, take a neutral stance on whether a nuclear waste repository should be based in west Cumbria.

“It has taken this position because there is inconclusive evidence that such a repository would have a detrimental impact on the economy and the environment.

“A range of research and monitoring processes are now in place or are planned in future to determine the extent of such impacts.”

He said that, should the project go ahead, there were a number of options to maintain the brand and perception of the Lake District and Cumbria. These include a media campaign to ensure that information and publicity was accurate and fairly portrayed.

“We are mindful that the media and anti-nuclear lobby groups might misrepresent, distort or sensationalise the facts,” he added.

“It will be important therefore that the official bodies are clear and consistent in countering and correcting such claims when necessary.”

Other options are research with visitors and businesses, to counter any negative impact, as well as a Government-funded promotional campaign to publicise the positive aspects of the county.

Mr Greenwood said that the organisation had previous experience in mitigating serious issues, including the foot and mouth outbreak and several incidents of flooding, which had the potential to considerably harm the tourism industry.

He added: “These challenges, through careful communication and partnership working, have been largely remedied.

“A similar measured approach is also applicable to the current situation. Whatever the outcome one thing is certain: Cumbria Tourism will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the Lake District, Cumbria, maintains its position as the number one rural destination of choice in the UK.”

Rob Johnston, the chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said that this organisation had raised concerns that it could have an impact on both tourism and business. But he added that it was important to be involved in any discussions or debate. “There’s a long way to go on this,” he said.

He said that the nuclear industry, tourism and the food and drink sector had existed together for the past 50 years. “They’ve sat beside each other reasonably comfortably and successfully,” he said.

John Clarke, chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), agreed that tourism had co-existed with nuclear waste storage in Cumbria with no known adverse effect.

He added: “In fact, while it was open, the Sellafield Visitors Centre was one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cumbria.

“The nuclear industry is a good neighbour to the tourism industry; conferences and overnight stays by nuclear industry professionals bring in substantial amount of revenue for Cumbrian businesses.

“Indeed, the development of tourism is a key theme in the Britain’s Energy Coast economic blueprint, which sets out how the county will benefit from the planned £2bn transformation of west Cumbria into a world leader in energy production.

“It is too early yet to assess any potential negative impacts associated with hosting a geological disposal facility because no sites have been identified at this stage.

“If the local authorities vote to proceed to stage four of the MRWS process, the Government has agreed to support a brand protection programme to help mitigate any perceived negative impacts on the Cumbria and Lake District brands.”

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