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A NATIONAL park boss claims plans for a nuclear waste dump beneath Cumbria would ‘damage the Lake District’s national and international brand image’.

Bill Jefferson, chairman of the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), revealed his fear in a letter to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Mr Jefferson, an Allerdale councillor, has been criticised by anti-nuclear cam-paigners for not opposing the nuclear storage proposal, currently under consultation by the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MWRS) partnership, which includes the LDNPA.

But in a letter to DECC minister Baroness Verma of Leicester, he writes of ‘growing and increasingly widespread concerns’ over the repository plan.

Mr Jefferson claims that even ‘a perception of such a proposal would not be in the long term interests of the Lake District, its farming and resident communities and visitor economy’.

“Evidence suggests a potential risk to the Lake District’s brand image, and on communities that rely on this brand,” he said.

“While we do not know what precise impacts a repository under the national park would have on its special qualities, I am concerned such a proposal could adversely affect the Lake District’s national and inter-national standing, reputation and integrity, prejudicing the delivery of the authority’s vision to the detriment of the Cumbrian tourism economy.”

Anti-nuclear campaigner Marianne Birkby, of Radiation Free Lakeland, said she was not convinced by Mr Jefferson’s comments.

“This is a purely tactical move to try to save face while not actually changing their position. Bill Jefferson is from Silloth, an area which has angrily woken up to the reality that they are being eyed up for having the world’s nuclear waste be-neath them.

“Mr Jefferson is looking to appease his constituents and show ‘concern’ while actually toeing the line and going along with the plan.

“The only caveats in the letter are that the above surface facilities should not be in view from the national park and that the dump doesn’t interfere with the brand too much.

“We know the geology is wrong and the national park should say a strong and vehement ‘no’ now.”