Fighting spirit still alive 25 years after nuclear triumph

Fulbeck was national news in 1986/7.
Fulbeck was national news in 1986/7.

IT’S been 25 years since villagers in Fulbeck won a momentous battle to save their back yards from becoming a home to nuclear waste.

To mark the occasion - and to donate £1,000 left over from the campaign to fighting cancer - many of the LAND (Lincolnshire Against Nuclear Dumping) campaigners who fought the good fight met up at Fulbeck Village Hall last week.

With an exhibition of press cuttings and photographs on display, this reporter expected the mood to be one of cheerful reminiscing.

Instead, some 25 years on and with the prospect of new nuclear power stations being built, the campaigners are still in militant mood and continue to meet regularly.

“The Government are saying they are going to be backing these nuclear power stations,” said Brenda Gilman. “So we are starting to wonder if we will have to start up again.”

Peter Butterfield was part of LAND’s scientific group.

He said: “The reason they left Fulbeck was for economic reasons and economic reasons could change.

“If they were to revisit it we still have the funds to launch an awareness campaign - let’s put it that way.

“We still have about four questions which we have held back from asking - which even we don’t know the answer to and we are pretty sure they don’t know the answer to either.”

Villager Julian Fane was chairman of LAND throughout the campaign. He recalls the day he discovered his village stood a one-in-four chance of becoming a nuclear dumping ground.

Mr Fane said: “It was 7.30am on February 27, 1986. I was a farmer then and a magistrate at Sleaford court.

“I happened to be sitting in court that day when one of the people I employed came to the court and said he’d heard there was going to be a nuclear dump in Fulbeck.

“I took a phone call from a journalist asking what I thought of it because it has been printed in the Guardian. I remember making the remark that I had never read the Guardian in my life.

“It was about lunch time when my wife called and said I’d better come home because Fulbeck was being invaded by the press!

“That’s when this amazing 14 months began.”

Around 4,000 people joined land and £40,000 was raised to fight the proposals. Fulbeck became national news and campaigners found they had such influence that they convinced the scriptwriters of Emmerdale Farm to include a long-running nuclear dumping story-line.

Mr Fane said: “But even in Fulbeck you would meet people who said ‘you’re wasting your time’, but we concentrated on convincing Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet that they were going about it in the wrong way - scientifically and financially.”

On May 1, 1987 the Government abandoned plans to dump waste at any of the four proposed sites. But to this day, Mr Fane and his fellow campaigners are not certain as to the reasons why the idea was scrapped.

He said: “Soon after the Angela Rippon visit the Government changed its mind. It was about three weeks before a general election too.

“After 30 years the cabinet papers are released so in five years’ time we will hopefully know why the cabinet changed its mind.”

Mr Fane said he is not against nuclear power in principle.

He added: “I have no arguments against the building of nuclear power stations but the Government has to decide the best way to deal with the waste and convince people it will be safe because, naturally, people are frightened.

“It’s not an easy thing to sell and everyone thinks it’s okay if it’s somewhere else.”

At the end of the campaign LAND donated £10,000 from its funds to leukaemia research. Last week £1,000 was donated to Queen’s Medical Centre to help fight cancer.

The LAND coffers may now be empty but let nobody think the fight has gone out of Fulbeck.

Mr Fane said: “There’s always the possibility that a future Government could come back to Fulbeck and look again.”