Santa went ballistic over nuclear dump

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THE battle against a nuclear waste dump under Billingham was at its height this week in 1984. ANDREW LEVETT looks back at the day Santa Claus, the Christmas tree fairy and their helpers descended on London to make their point.

THE people of Billingham faced a second Christmas of uncertainty after a decision on the siting of a nuclear waste dump was delayed until the new year.

That was despite a colourful delegation from BAND – Billingham Against Nuclear Dumping – travelling to the capital to present Christmas cards to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Environment Secretary Patrick Jenkin.

The delgation was part of the campaign to prevent Nirex dumping nuclear waste in the old anhydrite mines beneath the town.

Santa Claus was the perhaps unlikely figure of local MP Frank Cook.

The late Hartlepool-born member for Stockton North was pictured in the Mail wearing his Santa suit and a big grin outside Number 10 Downing Street but was in less cheerful mood when environment under-secretary William Waldegrave told the delegation it would be at least three weeks before they discovered if their campaign was successful.

Mr Cook greeted the delay with “cold anger” and told Mail reporter Peter French: “The Minister promised us an announcement by Christmas and I am bloody angry about this.

“I only hope that when the announcement is made it will be acceptable otherwise there will be hell on.”

Mr Waldegrave told the group the delay was partly due to the need for a Government report on sea dumping.

But he stressed: “We really do understand the importance of the issue and the very genuine local concern.

“I can’t pre-empt the decision but I think it is worth everybody’s while to wait a few extra weeks.”

Dressed as a Christmas tree fairy, BAND public relations officer Sue Coward said that despite the unwelcome news the day had been a success.

“We wanted to emphasise the need for a future for Cleveland and I think we did that,” she said.

Hartlepool MP Ted Leadbitter was also part of the delegation and told the Mail the Government had delayed making a decision for too long.

“However, it does not diminish the determination of the people of Cleveland to get rid of this threat.”

The following year the plans were dropped, though in March 2011 Stockton Borough Council accepted an application by NPL Waste Management to reopen the mine for the disposal of non-nuclear waste.

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.