Thursday, 31 January 2013

Listen, and learn - or fail again

Yesterday, in Carlisle, a democratic process took place. Many didn't like the outcome of that process, including myself. However, no matter how much I hate the decision, I respect it.

During yesterdays marathon session in the Cumbria County Council Chambers, an amendment was put to the chamber, by Councillor Tim Knowles - it was, unfortunately, rejected.

This is where the process went wrong. The suggestion of excluding the Lake District National Park from the search for a Nuclear Repository should not have been a last minute amendment. The idea should have been the founding principle in finding a safe place for our nuclear legacy.

People didn't listen

I listened to those campaigning for a repository, I also listened to those campaigning against. Unfortunately, some campaigning for a repository forgot to listen to both sides of the argument. The county became split, and it became a small, verbal war, with communities divided.

Divide and conquer is a well known tactic. This is where Cumbria got it wrong. The West Cumbria MRWS Partnership divided by not being wholly transparent. Anti-Nuclear campaigners divided by scaremongering, and reminding people of the past. Copeland MP, Jamie Reed divided by claiming he would go it alone.

Together, the county is strong. Divided, the county is weak.

Memories last a long time

Twenty years ago, NIREX, began a search for a nuclear waste repository. The public were very suspicious of the process. During 2006, one MP, called the experience wretched:
Jamie Reed, MP told the House of Commons: “The experience of Nirex endured by my community in the mid-1990s was so wretched that I was minded to entitle this debate ‘fear and loathing’.
During October, 1992, Nirex submitted a planning request to construct Rock Characterisation Facility - a fancy name for a laboratory. Critics of the facility labelled it a Trojan Horse. After a five month planning inquiry, the Secretary of State for the Environment rejected the application.

The community has a long memory. The ghost of Nirex hadn't gone. Suspicions of the present day process fuelled the same fears that the community had endured all those years ago.
  • There was no trust in the MRWS Partnership.
  • There were too many meetings behind closed doors.
  • Questions were ignored.
  • Communities were ignored.
  • A Repository tender from two years ago raised suspicions.
  • Government didn't legalise the process.

We must learn!

Scapegoats are easy to come by. Verbally attacking those that voted against the repository is wrong. The West of the County cannot, and should not, be a lone voice. We must work together. We must find a solution. That solution isn't waiting until May, to eject Councillors from office. The solution is transparency, and honesty. Councillors may change - the public don't.

Feelings are still raw from the unsavoury process. Attacking individuals won't help, and will set us back years. People need to sit back, and think. Have a break, and then return energised with new ideas. Those ideas must include learning from the past.

If we don't learn, we will fail again.


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