09 November 2016, by Andrew Hirst. Read on EADT site
The latest options for Suffolk’s new nuclear power plant are to be announced later this month – with communities calling for the proposals to offer a “lasting legacy” for the county.
EDF Energy said stage two of its consultation on Sizewell C will begin on Wednesday, November 23, when people will be invited to have their say on the plans.
The long-awaited consultation, which comes four years after stage one, will cover options for the construction of the power station as well as associated development including an accommodation campus and transport improvements.
Councils and politicians have welcomed the announcement in recognition of the economic benefits of the £16 billion project, which is expected to provide power for five million homes, creating 5,500 jobs during construction and sustaining 900 when operational.
But after EDF’s last consultation was criticised for lacking detail and presenting unpopular options, the company has been urged to take a different approach.
The Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAG) is calling on EDF to consider “creative solutions” to provide a “lasting legacy”. Members of the four villages bypass campaign group, which wants EDF to contribute towards an alternative A12 route, also said they were seeking a “long-term legacy”.
The consultation, which runs until February 3, will feature more than 20 public exhibitions across east Suffolk. It has faced delays due to uncertainties over Sizewell C’s sister project, Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which only received Government backing in September.
The Christmas timing of the consultation, however, has faced criticism. Roy Dowding, chairman of the B1122 Action Group, said EDF was “heavily criticised” for holding stage one of the consultation over the festive period, but “they do not care”.
Nigel Smith, chairman of Middleton-cum-Fordley Parish Council, said EDF’s consultation so far had been “a complete joke”, which had failed to consider local views. Together Against Sizewell C (TASC), a campaign group which formed in opposition to the new power station, said the timing was “very unfortunate”.
EDF said it aspired to the “highest standards of public consultation” and all its public exhibitions ran between November 23 and December 15, with extra time built in to account for the Christmas period. It added that stage one of its consultation engaged with more than 4,000 people at 100-plus events.
The company said feedback from the first consultation had been used to develop “preferred positions” on some of the key elements of the proposals, while others remain as options.
TASC, said it was keen to see the progress made. “The many areas of concern, which were flagged up at the woefully inadequate first stage consultation must be seen to be addressed by EDF,” said TASC member Joan Girling. She said TASC wanted the consultation to include the impact on the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Simon Amstutz, AONB manager, said it expected the points raised in stage one would be addressed by EDF.
“We expect to see proposals on how EDF will protect the vital tourism economy on the Suffolk coast that supports many businesses and jobs,” he added.
TEAG is also calling on EDF to provide reassurances that “adequate measures will be put in place to preserve the special qualities of this area” and its tourism industry.
Guy McGregor, chairman of Sizewell C Joint Local Authorities Group, said the announcement was “good news” after years of uncertainty.
“Finally, the people most affected by the proposed Sizewell C development will have the opportunity to study and comment on how EDF will manage this massive construction project and how they have responded to the views received from stage one of their consultation,” he added.
Leiston Parish Council said it welcomed the opportunity to take part in the consultation.
Geoff Holdcroft, chairman of Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Sizewell C task group, said: “The construction and operation of this nuclear power station will bring a massive boost to the economy of east Suffolk, but we need to make sure we get it right for our local communities.”
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said it was “great news” the consultation had been announced.
“It is important that the opinion of residents is conveyed to EDF and that we maximise the opportunity to improve local infrastructure,” she added.
Jim Crawford, Sizewell C project development director, said: “We have introduced this further stage of formal public consultation to give the public an opportunity to see how our plans have developed and to help us shape them further before a final stage of consultation.
“We understand it has been some time since we published our initial proposals for feedback, so I would like to encourage people to look through the latest plans for Sizewell C, to visit one of the exhibitions and to take the opportunity to have their say in the development of the project.”
Transport proposals have faced strong opposition
Transport options outlined in stage one of EDF’s Sizewell C consultation provoked some of the greatest opposition among potentially affected communities.
The company has been considering a variety of options to get workers and materials to the construction site via rail, sea and road, which could involve the creation of two park and ride facilities at short-listed locations.
People living near the B1122, which EDF identified as its preferred road route to the site, have raised concerns with its suitability.
Roy Dowding, chairman of the B1122 Action Group, said recent “chaos” along the road showed it was “not fit for the purpose of regular, intense heavy road traffic” and called for a new direct route leaving the A12 from further south.
The Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell also said the B1122 was unsuitable and criticised the lack of information on the possible use of rail and sea for deliveries.
Members of the four villages bypass campaign group, who want EDF to contribute towards a new A12 route avoiding Marlesford, Little Glemham, Stratford St Andrew and Farnham, say recent travel problems in the area have only reinforced their views.
Debbi Tayler, of the group, said a series of “abnormal loads”, which passed through the villages transporting materials towards the coast for offshore wind farms, showed the road could not cope with large construction vehicles.
“It’s as bad as it has ever been and will only get worse,” she said.
“It’s totally unacceptable.”
Mrs Tayler says other options raised in discussions with EDF, including widening the road at Farnham and creating a two village bypass, were also unsuitable. She has called for the company to provide more information from its traffic surveys.
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter raised the importance of the bypass in Parliament yesterday.
He said: “Historically we have seen a reluctance from EDF to engage with the need for significant improvements to both road and rail infrastructure in east Suffolk, and much more needs to be done to identify priorities for EDF’s contribution to important road improvements on the A12.”
EDF has presented several options for two park and ride facilities near the A12 to ferry workers to and from the construction site from the north and south. Earlier this week, the company confirmed that its plans for a site on the edge of Wickham Market and Hacheston would no longer be a “lorry park”, though the park and ride proposals still stood. The preferred location for the northern park and ride is Darsham. Both options have provoked opposition.
Leonora Van Gils, an interfaith minister whose Darsham home overlooks a site earmarked for a park and ride, said uncertainty over the decision had left her “a prisoner in my own home”, which she could not sell because of the proposals.
Accommodation campus to house 3,000 workers
Campaigners have called on EDF to take an “imaginative approach” to accommodate workers involved in the construction of Sizewell C.
The company has previously said its preferred option for an “accommodation campus”, which would house around 3,000 workers, was area between Leiston, Theberton and Eastbridge.
The Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS), however, said the proposed development was not suitable for a rural site, close to RSPB Minsmere.
“TEAGS continues to call on EDF to take a more imaginative approach, and split the accommodation across multiple urban sites that can offer the necessary infrastructure and would benefit from the investment, and where affordable housing could be a long-term legacy,” the group said. “This would be closer to the plan for Hinkley Point C, and would also protect the special nature of this rural area, which attracts many visitors for the peace, the wildlife and the coast.”
There have been previous calls for the accommodation to become “legacy housing” to help solve the region’s shortage of new homes, particularly social housing.