RESIDENTS across west Cumbria were left wrongly fearing their homes were at risk of compulsory purchase.

One Whitehaven councillor was contacted by dozens of worried locals who were among 1,600 people to receive letters about the proposed new nuclear plant near Sellafield.

The nuclear developer Nugen has apologised for the letters, accepting they gave the wrong impression.

Officials say the “vast majority” of the people who received letters are not in property that may be bought up to make way for the plant, north of Sellafield, and associated developments.

Egremont South Copeland councillor Lena Hogg said: “The problem was that the letter sent out for Nugen was very technical and people were left with the impression that their property was going to be compulsory purchased.

“People in wards other than mine were worried that they were going to take their homes.”

Mrs Hogg, who praised Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie for intervening to clear up the misunderstanding, said the letter was intended

for residents who may be affected by the Moorside development in any number of ways, including noise.

She added: “They quickly sent out an apology letter and an explanation of where they had gone wrong.”

Mr Starkie said he was not warned that the letters would go out and that they were sent while Nugen chief executive Mike Samson was away on a business trip to South Korea.

Mike Starkie “It was addressed right away,” he said.

The proposed new nuclear plant, which will create around 6,000 jobs during it construction phase, will include worker accommodation campuses, highway improvement works, and work at the Port of Workington.

The letters were sent for Nugen by a firm called TerraQuest, and distributed across Egremont and Whitehaven.

They pointed out that the Moorside development will include new railway tracks at sites between Corkickle and Mirehouse, St Bees and into the Moorside Site. TerraQuest is a specialist firm dealing with issues that can include compulsory purchase.

The letter told residents: “TerraQuest confirms that it has been instructed by Nugen as a Land Referencing Consultant to carry out enquiries into land and property ownership.

“The purpose of these enquiries is to enable Nugen to consult with persons having an interest in land and property potentially affected by the Moorside Project.

“You are being contacted as we believe you may have an interest in or over the land which is within or is in close proximity to the proposed Moorside Project.”

A Nugen spokesman said the firm apologised since it was evident that the letters have given an inaccurate impression that homes were at risk of compulsory purchase. He said: “We regret any concern and worry that these letters may have caused and we apologise for that.

“The majority of people who have got these letters won’t be affected by compulsory purchase orders.”

In a lengthier statement, the spokesman said: “As part of the planning process for the Moorside Project, Nugen is required to carry out ‘Land Referencing’ activity which includes contacting anyone who has an involvement in property which could be affected by the development.

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“We understand that correspondence surrounding this activity has not been received as we had intended and we should have engaged better with our neighbours to help them understand what it means for them.

“Some people believed that this letter suggested that Nugen is looking to purchase their property.

“The majority of people who have been contacted, as part of the Request for Information, will not be affected by the compulsory purchase process but will instead be consulted on the basis that they might be able to make a claim as a result of the proposed Moorside Project.

“Nugen is putting a number of steps in place, including a drop-in sessions where our planning teams will be ready to discuss with individuals how they are affected.

“We are unable to estimate how many people are likely to be affected by compulsory purchase as we are some way from finalising our plans.

“Over the next 12 months we will enter into one-to-one discussions with a small number of land owners who are likely to be affected by the scheme. We have entered into correspondence with around 1,600 people. We regret any worry or concern that this caused and we sincerely apologise.”

A public meeting about the development will be held on April 6, starting at 6pm, at Mirehouse Labour Club in Whitehaven.