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Sizewell: Green groups unite to protect landscape from damage caused by colossal Sizewell C nuclear power project

PUBLISHED: 16:04 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:04 11 November 2013

The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B's dome. The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B's dome.

The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B's dome. The future site of the Sizewell C project is next to Sizewell B's dome.

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High-powered environmental groups have united in a ground-breaking collaboration that aims to safeguard the Suffolk coast’s treasured landscape, its tourism and internationally important wildlife against the worst potential impacts of the colossal Sizewell C nuclear power project, the EADT can reveal.

The wide-ranging organisations have been working together behind the scenes for several months after rallying to the cause at the invitation of Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council, it has emerged.

The powerful alliance will be seeking to influence the prospective developers, French-owned energy giant EDF, on aspects of the new nuclear plant’s design and its effect on the area’s nationally designated landscape, and the project’s impacts on the area’s hugely significant ecology, tourism and quality of life.

In its first public declaration, the collaboration – the Sizewell C Suffolk Environmental Stakeholders Group – says it aims “to ensure that Sizewell C is the best it can be from a landscape and wildlife perspective and that Suffolk is not short-changed”.

It was not a case of environmental organisations simply objecting to a new nuclear power station being built on the Suffolk coast – Sizewell had already been allocated by the government as a location for such a plant. “Rather, given the decision that Sizewell is a suitable site has been made nationally, we are pragmatically rolling our sleeves up to ensure the project is the best it can be as an ‘environmental exemplar’ and that Suffolk’s natural environment, so important to our local economy (particularly tourism on the coast) and our quality of life here, is not damaged by the development,” it said.

The alliance includes both councils and the other organisations which have signed up to a Sizewell C “design principle” document – the National Trust, the RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – together with other groups including the Suffolk Preservation Society and the Woodland Trust.

The “statutory agencies” – Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and English Heritage – were “interested in what we are doing but, given their licensing duties, are not part of the group, thus allowing freer discussion by those solely championing Suffolk’s interests.”

The rationale for setting up the stakeholder group, it said, “was that by speaking with one voice on matters where we could form a consensus, we would be more able to influence EDF’s thinking. Indeed the outputs of the group, and the group itself, should be helpful to EDF, particularly as they move forward to their Stage 2 consultation.”

Further ahead, EDF would need to submit Statements of Common Ground with interested parties, “so working collaboratively with us now would benefit them, would help build relationships and trust and will ensure they can put forward a better application,” it said. “Currently there is no opportunity for environmental organisations to meet with EDF collectively in order to develop consensus with them. In the absence of this, the stakeholder group has formed to agree issues in preparation for statutory consultee workshops with EDF.

”The aim of the group is simply to ensure that Sizewell C is the best it can be from a landscape and wildlife perspective and that Suffolk is not short-changed. Suffolk County Council (SCC) and Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) are well placed to lead the process as statutory consultees with regular dialogue with EDF. All we want is to see the best possible outcome for Suffolk’s natural environment, from the Sizewell C project, and to genuinely ensure our natural environment partners (a) have a voice through us as we are statutory consultees regularly engaging with EDF at the moment, and (b) that our SCC/SCDC views can be genuinely enhanced by their input.

“At this stage the group is working on a series of high-level principles that we would like EDF to take into account as they develop their thinking. This includes design principles, ecology principles (to include bats, reptiles, Site of Special Scientific Interest loss) and also principles to inform decisions about the post-construction vision for the EDF estate.”

EDF said it was “carefully considering” the issues raised by the group.

“As owners of the Sizewell estate and good neighbours, we place a high value on the environment in which we work and the relationship we have with Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the AONB Partnership and other bodies,” it said.

“We welcomed the feedback the organisations that make up the membership of Suffolk Environmental Stakeholder Group have provided following our Stage 1 consultation on the Sizewell C proposals and we are carefully considering the issues they have raised. We look forward to continuing engagement with them as we develop the details of our proposals further.”

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