NUCLEAR protesters in Cumbria have stepped up their campaign against proposals to store radioactive waste under the western Lake District.

Although a decision whether to site the dump in the county has yet to be made, the prospect that a decision will be made in the coming weeks is galvanising opposition.

In the latest move, campaigners released the findings of survey of more than 500 visitors to Keswick.

Conducted jointly by Friends of the Earth (FoE), Save Our Lake District - Don’t Dump Cumbria and Radiation Free Lakeland, the survey asked whether the presence of a nuclear dump either next to the national park or underneath it would affect the Lake District's image.

Results released this week show that 89 per cent of people thought a dump would have a negative impact on how people perceived the Lake District.

The West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership (MRWSP) is currently consulting on the nuclear dump proposal.

Dr Ruth Balogh, nuclear issues campaigner for West Cumbria and North Lakes FoE, said: “This survey shows how detrimental these plans are to the image of the Lake District, and how damaging they would be to the tourist industry.

“The MRWS Partnership conducted a study about how the dump might affect the Lake District 'brand', and this also showed how detrimental it would be. But they think it can be 'mitigated'. This survey shows they might have to recruit a miracle worker to succeed. And once an image has been tainted - as the nuclear industry itself knows to its cost - it's extremely difficult if not impossible to repair.”

'We urge local people to make their views known to their local councillors, who are going to take the crucial decision in the coming weeks.”

Meanwhile, protesters from Radiation Free Lakeland held an anti-nuclear ‘vigil’ at the LDNPA’s visitor centre at Brockhole near Windermere.

Wearing protective suits, the protesters lit a candle at the site where a landmark monkey puzzle tree that was recently felled.

The group’s spokeswoman Marianne Birkby said: "The monkey tree has become a symbol of what could happen to the rest of Cumbria," said Mrs Birkby. "Even if the public doesn't something those in authority will go ahead and do it anyway."

Radiation Free Lakeland has also produced a ‘graphic’ book - Swallows and Amazons - which has been sent to LDNPA chairman Bill Jefferson, who has also expressed concern over a nuclear dump’s potential effect on the Lake District’s ‘brand image’.

Ms Birkby said: “The book - the latest in the series of the Wastwater Chronicles - charts the continuing journey of a gentle unassuming couple called Tom and Ellen who are trying to make sense of the Government proposal to bury high level radioactive waste deep within their beloved Lakeland.”