New Sizewell C plant could revive A12 bypass plans

A NEW bypass on the A12 cutting journey times between Lowestoft and Ipswich and major improvements for rail passengers in waveney could be among the benefits to local communities if a new Sizewell C nuclear plant is given the go-ahead.

Hopes for a 'four villages bypass'' on the A12 between Wickham Market and Saxmundham, and the electrification of the East Suffolk line, serving Lowestoft and Oulton Broad South, could be among the demands made before Sizewell C is built.

Upgrading the rail line from Saxmundham to Leiston to passenger standard may also be called for.

Guy McGregor, the county councillor with responsibility for planning at Suffolk County Council, said the authority would be looking for major investment in infrastructure before it would back the construction of a new nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast.

He was speaking as EDF Energy - the French-owned power giant hoping to build Sizewell C - agreed to finance the costs of public consultation into the scheme. The proposed plant would be twice the size of Sizewell B.

Now councils county council and Suffolk Coastal District Council will be finding out what local people want as the price of having a huge new nuclear plant on their doorstep – and what should be done to reduce the impact on the area.

Among the idea likely to be considered are resurrecting hopes for a new 'four villages' bypass on the A12 between Wickham Market and Saxmundham. The councils are also likely to press EDF to bring in as many construction materials as possible by sea and rail.

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Mr McGregor said there were many infrastructure issues to be resolved – and the county would need guarantees of new investment.

'We are not coming up with a wish-list. We will be drawing a statement of requirements if this huge project is to go ahead,' he said.

'It will be necessary to bring as many materials as possible in by rail and sea, but we also have to look at bringing in the workforce by rail as well...Bringing up the line from Saxmundham to Leiston to passenger standard is a key requirement. And we should also look at electrifying the East Suffolk line.'

He warned that another issue that needed to be addressed was the overhead wires between the power station and the National Grid.

He said: 'We don't know what will be needed there. The power lines that are in place at the moment were installed for Sizewell A and had enough capacity for Sizewell B as well.

'But Sizewell C would be twice as powerful – and the National Grid is also talking about bringing in power from the North Sea here and we don't know what kind of cables will be needed for all that.'

An EDF spokeswoman said: 'The local authorities play a key role in the planning process and we recognise that assessment of our proposals will place additional strains on their resources. It is appropriate that as developer we should be expected to help meet this financial burden.'

She said the agreement would allow EDF to find out more about the impact of Sizewell C on the local communities.

The company would be looking at key issues including transport, accommodation of workers and the environment in a sensitive area of the heritage coast.

She added: 'A new nuclear power station at Sizewell C would bring a welcome boost to the local and regional economy and support employment, skills, economic and wider community benefits to Suffolk as a whole.'

Andrew Nunn, cabinet member for the Green Environment at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: 'This agreement will ensure that the local issues raised by the Sizewell C project are thoroughly examined by this council.

'I can assure our residents that we will remain independent and that we will push for the best possible outcome for our district.'