Concerns remain over Sizewell C despite £250m financial package
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/EDF Energy
The developers behind the bid to build a new nuclear power plant at Sizewell have revealed details of their £250million package of funding to mitigate the impacts of the site - but Suffolk County Council still has 'big tickets' concerns over the project.
The examination phase of the £20billion nuclear facility plans has concluded, with interested parties setting out their positions.
A report with a recommendation will now be written by the Planning Inspectorate and handed to the Secretary of State, who then has a further three months to make a final decision, likely to be in April.
Despite progress on securing key improvements to the scheme, Suffolk County Council has said it still has big concerns outstanding that it is addressing directly to the Government.
However, EDF Energy has today set out £250m of financial contributions, known as the Deed of Obligation, designed to mitigate the impacts of the project, provide legacy benefits and compensate some of those affected.
Among the biggest areas of the package are:
- £22m – Work programme with Further Education colleges and training organisations, new centres of excellence to train future Sizewell employees and bursaries
- £78m – To form an independent environmental body to enhance the landscape of the area
- £22m – Investment in landscape impact mitigation, biodiversity improvements and creation of wildlife and habitat areas
- £23m – Community fund for villages and community groups to access for mitigation from the construction, administered by Suffolk Community Foundation
- £12m – Tourism fund
- £11m – Housing fund
- Up to £10m emergency services contribution
- Up to £13m for public services
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Humphrey Cadoux Hudson, Sizewell C managing director, said: “I am excited by the opportunities Sizewell C presents and I am determined that the local communities will benefit as much as possible from the opportunities presented by the project.
“Impacts of the construction phase will be minimised, and we will continue to work with local councils to deliver this.
“Sizewell C offers opportunities for all, the range of skills we need are diverse and we want a workforce that reflects society.
“With this funding package in place, we can ensure the project will help level up the county so that those most in need can access training to develop skills for rewarding local jobs and provide an incentive for people to live and work locally.”
Industry figures suggest the development could bring between £2billion and £4.5bn in wider economic benefits to the Eastern region.
Suffolk County Council has remained open to the principle of Sizewell C but couldn’t support plans as they were at the point of submission. While the authority says that good progress has been made on issues raised, it still has five main concerns.
- The addition of pylons around the main site, which the council says cause “a real blight on the landscape” of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The authority says gas insulated lines will have less impact.
- A second outage car park in addition to the one which already exists for Sizewell B that sits in the AONB – the council says one is enough.
- Sizewell link road to relieve strain on the B1122 during construction – the proposed route does not have future benefits and a southerly route would be preferred (the D2 route), according to the authority
- The crossing over the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – the council wants a three-span bridge where a single-span bridge is proposed
- Concerns that the surface water drainage and flooding mitigation is not stringent enough. Latest details were submitted around a week ago which the council says it has not had time to review.
Richard Rout, Conservative deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “We have made progress over the period of the examination, but we don’t think it has gone quite far enough to be the very best project that it can be for Suffolk.
“There are several big ticket issues we need to take to the very top, the Secretary of State himself, and say these are the issues when reviewing the planning balance and deciding whether to approve Sizewell C that we as the county council and communities we represent think you should give real priority to.”
He added: “We need to ensure that the mitigation put in place for such a huge development offers the maximum protection of Suffolk’s unique natural environment and our communities. We will continue to put forward a voice for Suffolk.”
Despite those problems, Cllr Rout said he was buoyed by progress on a number of key issues in the last 12 months, which amounted to an estimated £175m in value.
The percentage of construction materials to be delivered by rail and sea has increased from 40% to 60% to take the strain off the county’s rural roads, a reduced size of the accommodation campus, replacement habitats and agreement for a £30m-plus two villages-bypass of the A12 at Farnham and Stratford St Andrew.
East Suffolk Council has taken a neutral position throughout, but welcomed “crucial” mitigation measures secured through discussions.
Conservative council leader Steve Gallant said: “We have achieved a number of revisions to the proposal, should it go ahead, including additional landscaping and tree planting, design revisions to a crossing over a protected site and landscape, noise and ecological improvements to the design of associated developments.
“We have worked really hard to secure considerable investment in East Suffolk and the wider area and we are satisfied, if the Secretary of State grants consent for the Sizewell C project, that a scheme will be delivered which optimises the benefits and minimises any adverse impacts for East Suffolk.
“Ultimately, this is not our decision, however our role is to ensure that the communities of East Suffolk are put first and we believe that these packages and mitigation measures fulfil that undertaking.”
However, the county council’s opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group have expressed “extreme concern” at the Conservative administration’s response, as it does not object enough.
Cllr Annette Dunning said: “Economic viability is not proven, and we are locking in an unknown debt to the Suffolk and UK taxpayers,” adding: “We need to understand the great impact on our beautiful Suffolk coastline.”
Cllr Caroline Page said: “Words like mitigation do not make sense when we look at the descent from a heritage coast to an energy coast, now to building site.
“Although we appreciate the money from the community fund, it cannot meet the impact on the social needs created by the developments of Sizewell.”