Local government is always working on two fronts: to deliver effective services today and to yield better future outcomes for their community. In the middle of this unprecedented crisis, the need for action on public health and the economy, while laying the foundations of a future recovery, is more urgent than ever.
There has been much talk, nationally and locally, of what comes next. How we deliver a ‘Green Recovery’ or ‘Build Back Better’ is a concern of local authorities of all political persuasions. Investment in 21st century infrastructure will be a central aspect of the recovery phase.
One major infrastructure scheme for England and Wales, perhaps not on the radar of many as yet, is the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) which is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) in England. A GDF is a multi-billion pound development that will deliver employment and wider benefits to its host community – and beyond – for over 100 years. It will take some of the UK radioactive wastes and dispose of them 100s of metres below the surface in an engineered facility, protecting humans and the environment.
Such an approach is accepted internationally as the best option for long term radioactive waste management. Finland’s repository is due to open next year while Sweden’s proposals are awaiting final government approval following overwhelming support from the local municipality. Countries including Canada, Switzerland and Japan are all looking for a suitable location.
The siting process in England and Wales was launched nearly two years ago. Several local authorities are already engaged in discussions with the developer, Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), a public body, with the first two ‘Working Groups’ being formed now to engage their local communities. Others are expected to follow.
Councils and communities can withdraw from the process at any stage, and the development will only proceed if local people give their consent through a test of public support. Any community entering the process by forming a ‘Community Partnership’ will receive up to £1 million pounds per year for local projects, rising to £2.5 million later in the process. Community Partnerships will also receive support to help them engage the local population and develop a long-term vision that could underpin greater investment in future.