THE lead body for tourism in Cumbria will object to a vast underground nuclear repository for the county if it encroaches inside Lake District National Park territory, it has said.

Cumbria Tourism has explained its position of ‘neutrality’ in a letter to leading politician Baroness Verma of Leicester; whose portfolio at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, includes the issue.

The board’s statement, written by chairman, Eric Robson, comes ahead of a key vote next week involving Cumbria County Council, Allerdale and Copeland councils on January 30.

Cumbria Tourism represents more than 3,000 tourism businesses in the £2-billion a year tourism industry - the bulk of which are within the area designated national park.

Some in the county’s tourism industry are sufficiently concerned to already be actively campaigning against what protestors call an underground 'nuclear dump.'

They estimate it would be ‘deeper than Scafell is high, and bigger than the City of Carlisle’.

The Keswick-based Lake District Hotels group, run by hoteliers Kit and Charles Graves, are among the high profile tourism operators calling on Cumbria’s withdrawal from the process.

At the weekend, protestors from Radiation Free South Lakeland held a ‘Ditch The Dump’ rally in Bowness with organisers saying it attracted over 100 people who signed a giant postcard destined for Coun Eddie Martin, the leader of Cumbria County Council.

However, Eric Robson, chairman of Cumbria Tourism, said in its letter to the Baroness that the issue of nuclear waste is a ‘problem which needs to be addressed.’

"The executive board of Cumbria Tourism wishes to make clear that taking a neutral stance (at this stage) does not imply tacit support for a nuclear waste repository," wrote Mr Robson.

He said that there were no current definitive plans to ‘suggest it might be built in the Lake District National Park or the Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,’ as opposition groups have maintained.

However, he added: “It is inevitable that Cumbria Tourism would object strongly should further research lead to any suggestion that a nuclear waste repository could be considered in either the National Park or AONB.”

Marianne Birkby, of Radiation Free Lakeland, described Cumbria Tourism’s position as ‘weak kneed acquiescence.'

She also said the organisation and a recent statement by the Friends of the Lake District on the issue was tantamount to: ‘Playing to an increasingly angry gallery but not doing the right thing and opposing.’

The Friends, a conservation charity group, have written to councillors on CCC requesting they reject the chance to remain in the search for a potential site.

The Friends said their approach would be 'further geological desk-based analysis, together with related hydrological conditions, being conducted independently and openly, involving a wide range of interest groups and public representatives before progressing any further towards site selection.

Jack Ellerby, policy officer at FoLD said: “Public anxiety, by a wide range of interests and communities potentially affected, about the neutrality of the decision making process associated with the MRWS (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely) process is growing.

“The process has lost the trust of the people and businesses of Cumbria. Suitable geology to host any underground repository is key to the whole process to ensure a safe, secure and technical facility."

“The evidence we’ve seen shows the potential is low in the mudstones on the Solway and the Eskdale granites. In the interests of Cumbria’s economy and environment as a whole, land in or under the Lake District National Park and the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, should be taken out of the equation in any case.”