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Battle for soul of the Lakes pits unspoilt nature against the lure of more jobs via the guardian

As a crucial decision on nuclear dumping looms, Cumbria’s people are divided over the best way to secure their future – and that of the national park

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The next potential threat is a decision on the site of a huge underground cavern to store Britain’s nuclear waste for the next million years. On 30 January, three Cumbrian councils will decide whether to agree a full preliminary planning proposal for an underground storage facility four times larger than the vast Sellafield complex from where the waste will be transported.

A letter on Friday from the Friends of the Lake District to councillors set out a catalogue of safety concerns which meant the entire process had “lost the trust” of Cumbrians. Yet some in the isolated valley of Eskdale, which has emerged as a possible location for the facility, say the romanticism espoused by William Wordsworth and the 20th century guidebook master Alfred Wainwright is largely reserved for the tourists. Gordon Oldham, a handyman in the hamlet of Eskdale Green, said: “What’s the fuss? We’d be dead without it.”

“It” refers to Sellafield, which provides 9,231 jobs to an area of West Cumbria that is as naturally blessed as it is economically challenged. Further down the valley at the King George IV pub in Eskdale, a bar worker, who did not want to be named, said that he was in favour of nuclear waste being buried in the valley after the government promised community benefits for the council that allowed the enormous underground cavern. “Dig a hole,” he said. “The bigger the better. We’ve lived with Sellafield for 50 years. What’s the problem? Every penny in the pound helps.”

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