An All-Party Parliamentary Group


Site-specific briefing packs can drive a transparent debate on GDFs

The development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) brings with it a wide range of benefits, and concerns, for any potential host community. Jobs and economic activity are the obvious advantages as infrastructure is built – and later managed and maintained. Equally, the local population will have perfectly legitimate concerns about safety and security, and these must be addressed quickly and clearly.

Arup believes providing detailed GDF Briefing Packs from the outset would drive open discussion of the advantages for any Volunteer Community, while providing a critical platform to tackle the inevitable challenges.

As it stands, the current planning process means negative issues can often gain traction before positive evaluations on economic and societal factors can fully demonstrate the advantages to prospective host communities.

This makes it difficult for community champions to take the high-profile step of registering an Expression of Interest (EOI) while they lack the hard evidence of tangible gains to the Volunteer Community.

To encourage early and positive community engagement, we advocate a process that delivers a local, specific, objective and balanced vision for the GDF right from the start. The process would involve creating a series of detailed GDF Briefing Packs.

A Pack would be developed for each of a dozen or so district-sized areas across England and Wales and would provide well-researched and objective evaluations for the benefits and challenges of GDF development specific to the district. In a similar way to any other economic impact assessments or regional development plans, the GDF Briefing Packs would be open to discussion and challenge, based on balanced, specific local information. The packs could also incorporate GIS (Geographical Information System)-based evaluation tools and chart elements such as excluded geology, transport networks, complementary industrial sectors or other features.

The GDF Briefing Packs would form the basis of direct discussion with potential local champions to enhance understanding, interest and engagement. This could then support the submission of an Expression of Interest from the Volunteer Community and tie in with the work of apolitical advisory partners such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

The human element is critical here. If development is to proceed, concerns must be addressed openly and frankly before any project will gain the assent of the community. Yet without the data needed to drive support in the early stages of the development process, an information vacuum can generate uninformed and often negative speculation.

The best way to combat this challenge is to articulate and disseminate balanced, informed and objective information that highlights the benefits and addresses potential concerns in a sensible manner.

By developing GDF Briefing Packs, we can provide a tool for doing just that.