Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen reacts to Hartlepool councillor's resignations over nuclear waste talks
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says fellow Conservative Mike Young was right to resign from his role as deputy council leader and deputy mayor.
Councillor Young announced he was standing down from the prominent positions on Hartlepool Borough Council after coming in for criticism for helping to arrange meetings between council chiefs and The Wharton Trust, which is leading local talks about a potential major nuclear waste disposal project.
He said it had become clear in recent weeks that he lacked the support of “more senior Conservatives in the region”.
The Wharton Trust, which works in the Dyke House area, approached Radioactive Waste Management, which is leading the search for a host community for the nuclear waste on behalf of the government.
The trust became their “interested party” with which to start a conversation in Hartlepool.
Reacting to Cllr Young’s resignations, Mayor Houchen said he believed it was the right decision and vowed to find out all involved in the controversial plans.
He said: “As mayor I will continue to weed out who at Hartlepool Borough Council was involved in plans to turn the town into a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
"The council is looking at the FOI [Freedom of Information request] I submitted and if it reveals more councillors were in contact with the Wharton Trust and Radioactive Waste Management, then regardless of political stripes they should be held to account.
“Mike Young’s decision to resign as deputy leader of the council, after making his involvement in the plans public, was the right decision given his role in this saga.
“I will always fight for the town and make no mistake, for as long as I am mayor I will not allow Hartlepool to become a dump for the country’s nuclear waste.”
Cllr Young said he would have neglected his duty to ignore trust’s request to meet council managing director Denise McGuckin to discuss the proposal, which promises jobs and investment for the town.
But he added it had become “more than apparent” local politics did give him the level of decision making that he expected.
Hartlepool has been identified as a potential host site for the underground disposal of all the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste because of the type of rock found here, on Teesside and elsewhere in the North East.