The former leader of Cumbria County Council is urging the county's peers to speak up and help stop the area becoming home to a nuclear waste dump.

Eddie Martin, who is now a leading campaigner against geological disposal of radioactive waste in the county, has written to the 10 ahead of a House of Lords debate on the issue next month.

Writing as a director of Cumbria Trust, Mr Martin said: "The failure to exclude designated areas, including areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks, from the search process for geological disposal is both alarming and irrational, in that it demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the protection in law given to these areas.

"Major developments can only be permitted in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated that there are no alternative sites available outside the national park."

He added that the fact that no other UK sites outside the national park had volunteered to be part of the search for a site may be of no relevance, as voluntarism was not recognised in planning law so much of the UK would still need to be surveyed to see if it was suitable.

He said: "This highlights the absurdity of the failure to exclude designated areas, something which even Nirex understood three decades ago. This is not simply a matter of failing to learn from past mistakes, but of introducing new and significant mistakes as they go along, and Cumbria Trust believes it simply must not go unchallenged."

Mr Martin, of Crosby, was county council leader in 2013 when the authority voted to pull out of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership process to search for a site for an underground nuclear waste disposal site.

Allerdale and Copeland had been the only areas of the country to volunteer to be part of the central government process.

In a day of crunch votes, both Allerdale and Copeland councils opted to remain part of the discussions, despite a wealth of public opposition and campaigns from pressure groups set up to protect the Lake District and the Solway Coast.

But the county council voted against, spelling the end of that process and forcing the government into a rethink which led to the launch of the latest process.

Members of the House of Lords are due to debate the Draft NPS for Geological Disposal Infrastructure, the draft of a national policy statement which seeks to guide planners on matters relating to burying nuclear waste underground.

Cumbria's peers, Lords Bragg, Campbell-Savours, Cavendish, Clark, Dubs, Henley, Inglewood, Judd and Liddle, and the Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome, can all take part in the debate.

Highlighting expert concerns previously raised about the geology of West Cumbria, Mr Martin said in his letter: "You will also be aware that as a World Heritage Site, the Lake District has adopted a statement of outstanding universal value, and that its inclusion in a search area will undoubtedly threaten that status, requiring notification to the World Heritage Centre and International Council on Monuments and Sites.

"We would encourage you to speak up strongly for the protection of our designated areas and for Cumbria in particular.

"Designated areas must be protected and any new search process should exclude them from the beginning. My colleagues and I would urge you to use the debate on September 6 to push for that exclusion."