AT Mablethorpe holiday resort, the golden beach is lined with everything you would expect at the seaside.
Donkey rides, shops selling brightly coloured buckets and spades, the mouth-watering smell of fish ‘n’ chips… but now, signs of something sinister are starting to emerge.
In the neighbouring village of Theddlethorpe, just 10 minutes away from the area’s seal sanctuary, two skeletons sit in oil drums over-spilling with oozing green fake waste.
Angry residents wearing red “No to Nuclear Dump” T-shirts are congregating in town, while banners bearing the same message are strung on fences.
The quiet community has been rocked by leaked secret plans to turn the gem in Lincolnshire’s coastline into the UK’s new nuclear dump, with a 60-acre disused gas terminal in Theddlethorpe eyed as an onshore facility.
Maggie Loy, 51, owner of the skeletons and a Theddlethorpe resident for 23 years, is horrified.
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She tells The Sun: “We were absolutely gobsmacked and disgusted. It would be 750 metres away from us.
“Our main concern is for my children and my grandchildren who live in the village and for all the tourists who come to Mablethorpe. It’s just going to kill it off.
“Who is going to want to come to the beach and stay at the Golden Sands Haven holiday park? It’s going to have to be renamed Glowing Sands.”
The plans, revealed by the BBC who claimed talks had been going on for two years, could see a dump dug six miles off Mablethorpe beach, made up of tunnels and vaults 200 to 1,000 metres below the sea.
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Waste from the past 50 years of nuclear energy programmes, currently temporarily stored at Sellafield in Cumbria, would be deposited and sealed off for ever.
There would also be room for more waste from a new nuclear programme.
According to documents from Radioactive Waste Management, part of the Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), there will be natural and artificial barriers to minimise the escape of radioactivity.
Maggie believes the local council has been swayed by the potential cash injection. NWS promises huge economic development, along with jobs and investment in infrastructure.
Cumbria has benefited from a million-pound pot which has filtered into local projects, such as a BMX track, the refurbishment of a recreation venue and an electronic scoreboard at Seascale cricket club.
Maggie says: “Theddlethorpe is a lovely community. Locals are very supportive of each other.
“The local council doesn't want to know. To be honest, they’re going along with the bribe of the money they’re going to get every year.”
The local council doesn't want to know. To be honest, they’re going along with the bribe of the money they’re going to get every year
At the Louth Hotel, on Mablethorpe’s high street, members of the Guardians of the East Coast (GOTEC) – set up to protect the area from nuclear developments – have organised a meeting with locals.
Morrissey’s Everyday is Like Sunday is playing. The lyrics seem apt: “In the seaside town that they forgot to bomb. Come, come, come nuclear bomb.”
Ken Smith, Chair of GOTEC, tells The Sun: "I was horrified when I first heard. Here we are, a bucket and spade holiday resort, and suddenly someone thinks, what a good place to stick a nuclear dump.
“It doesn't make any sense. If the dump goes ahead it will kill the tourist trade.
“Even if this doesn't go ahead, for the next 10 to 15 years, this prospect is going to be hanging over the resort like a Sword of Damocles.
“No-one in their right mind is going to invest money in the tourist trade. The town would be dead, and we still don't get anything. It's crazy."
Like Maggie, Andy Gathercole believes the council has been swayed by money.
He said: "It's a nice area to retire to and the last thing we want is all this dangerous waste putting under our feet.
“We were told if we have this dump we will look after your environment, build up your sea defences and give you up to a million pounds a year to improve your neighbourhood.
“Now we all know that it's just a bribe. The council has been very sneaky about it. Two years talking about it behind our backs.”
This month Boris Johnson vowed to tackle the energy crisis by building a nuclear reactor every year.
But nuclear waste experts have said no new plants should be built until the country builds a large underground nuclear waste dump – or geological deposit facility – to store the 700,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste from its nuclear programme.
The cost of decommissioning and getting rid of the UK's nuclear waste now sits at £131billion.
Bad for business
NWS invited communities to propose their area for the plans. Four volunteered – Allerdale, Mid Copeland and South Copeland in Cumbria, and Theddlethorpe.
Tourism is one of the local residents' primary concerns.
In the shadow of Skegness, just 15 miles up the coast, Mablethorpe offers a smaller and quieter choice.
Marie Henderson runs Mablethorpe Seafood Bar, where trays of cockles, mussels and crab sticks are on display.
She says it “wouldn’t be very good for business,” adding: “I wouldn't like it all. House prices will go down.”
Next door Danny Wigg is selling buckets and spades, beach balls and surf boards at Gifts Galore.
He says: “It's going to affect businesses and close campsites down. It could have a massive effect on trade.”
Then there are the practical considerations.
The area is served by smaller, countryside roads – perfectly fine for holidaymakers looking to escape, but what about the kind of industrial transportation needed for a large-scale nuclear waste dump?
Part of the package would include investment into new roads.
Katherine Barker, who lives in Theddlethorpe and whose property overlooks one of the possible sites, says she was devastated when she heard about the proposals.
“It's a lovely old-fashioned sleepy village with a small village school and community centre,” she says.
“My major concern is for tourism in Mablethorpe. We are an agricultural county. Nuclear waste would be transported by whatever means across to this dump. Our roads are not suitable.”
She also doubts the new employment opportunities such an investment would bring would benefit local people.
But what she’s most angry about is what she describes as the “smoke and mirrors” way this proposal appears to have come about.
The community has no say. It has been thrust upon us. It has been shrouded in secrecy. It's smoke and mirrors
She says: “The first our local community heard about this was when it was leaked by a whistleblower. It then transpired that Lincolnshire County Council were in talks with Nuclear Waste Services (NSW) for two years.
“The community has no say. It has been thrust upon us. It has been shrouded in secrecy. It's smoke and mirrors.
“If I hear the word transparency one more time I think I will scream. It's anything but transparent.”
Threat to tourism
Visitors to Mablethorpe love it and are loyal. Amanda Coley first came on holiday as a baby and has been here every year since. That's 53 years.
She wasn't aware of the proposed dump until now.
"It's absolutely disgusting," she says. "This is a town that runs on tourism and a lot of tourists will stop coming here.
“I don't know if I will come here again if there is nuclear waste being dumped.
“I have been coming here 53 years and I love it. All my childhood memories are here, the family's memories, and I come here to reminisce. I love the place. The East Coast is the best coast."
Derek and Jenny Beilby are also devoted visitors and have had a caravan in Mablethorpe for more than 20 years.
“We come most weekends,” Derek says as the pair tuck into ice creams while sat on a bench overlooking the sea.
“We don't want a nuclear dump on our doorstep thank you. Take it elsewhere.”
Back in The Louth Hotel, owner Graham Cullen is doing a roaring trade as orders for fish, chips and mushy peas roll in.
Graham, also a Labour Councillor for the Town and District, fears for the future implications of the town should plans go ahead.
He warns: “The people of Mablethorpe are not very happy about it. It will affect business.
“It might not be in our lifetime but it's the next generation that comes along, and they might not want to come to the seaside because we have a nuclear dump.”
We don't want a nuclear dump on our doorstep thank you. Take it elsewhere
A community would have to give clear consent through a test of public support – if they don't want a GDF, it won't happen.
Simon Hughes, NWS's GDF Programme Siting Director, says: "We recognise concerns about tourism and, if a longer-term Community Partnership is formed, we would work with the tourism industry and others to support the local economy.
"A GDF would create thousands of jobs, as well as bring funding for local initiatives and investment in the area's infrastructure."
Lincolnshire County Council leader, Cllr Martin Hill, says: “In July 2021 we started discussions with NWS (called RWM at that time) about their proposal for a geological disposal facility (GDF) at the former gas terminal in Theddlethorpe, owned by the National Grid.
"To find out more about the proposals in detail, we took an open decision to join a Working Group which East Lindsey District Council and the local parish council have also joined.
“As a council, we have formed no opinion on the proposals and it's essential that NWS fully engage with the local community so they can understand what is involved.
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“Ultimately local residents would take a decision on whether any facility was progressed.”
The Sun has reached out to East Lindsey District Council for comment.
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