Political war of words in Hartlepool nuclear waste row amid questions over council talks
Information requests have been made to council chiefs in a political row over talks about Hartlepool potentially being chosen to bury nuclear waste.
Conservative Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer have submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Hartlepool Borough Council for details about talks the council has had with representatives on behalf of the Geological Disposal Facility.
Presentations have been held locally by Hartlepool community organisation The Wharton Trust on behalf of Radioactive Waste Management.
Last week, Mayor Houchen accused Labour in Hartlepool of holding a “secret meeting” with the trust.
Hartlepool Labour Group said they received a 10-minute presentation and took no decision to support the proposal.
It has now emerged that Hartlepool Conservative councillor Mike Young, also the council’s deputy leader, helped organise meetings with the council after being approached by The Wharton Trust.
Labour has also lodged an FOI with the council.
A party spokesperson said: “In light of recent events and unfounded accusations directed at Hartlepool Labour Party by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, Hartlepool Labour has come into possession of evidence indicating that senior Conservatives in the town have been negotiating and facilitating meetings regarding Hartlepool hosting a nuclear waste facility since September 2020.
“The Labour Party has therefore submitted an FOI request for all correspondence on this matter to uncover the truth for the people of Hartlepool.”
In a statement posted on the Hartlepool Conservatives Facebook page, Cllr Young said: “It would have been remiss of me to dismiss the request to facilitate a meeting with the managing director for an opportunity to bring jobs and investment opportunities to the town with the caveat of a binding people’s vote.
“I can confirm that I absolutely did facilitate meetings with Hartlepool Borough Council regarding the research project, despite my personal apprehensions regarding any kind of waste storage site in Hartlepool.
“No decision has been made by the council or any political party. I have simply presented the information as it has been given to me with a view that the council could potentially discuss the option of a watching brief to ‘keep an eye on' the voluntary sector project whilst the research progressed.”
Cllr Young added he shares the concerns of Mayor Houchen and Mrs Mortimer and said he does not personally support the idea.
But Mayor Houchen said: “It is hugely disappointing to hear that Mike Young has been trying to facilitate meetings and conversations about the disposal of nuclear waste in Hartlepool for an extensive period of time.
"It’s equally concerning that his admission has only come following my bringing this to the attention of the public and after I have submitted an FOI request to the council asking for any and all correspondence from councillors regarding this matter.”
Mrs Mortimer said there needed to be transparency.
A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received a Freedom of Information request from Ben Houchen and Jill Mortimer which we are currently looking into.
“We can also confirm that we have received a Freedom of Information request from the Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party which we are currently looking into.”