As councils lose patience with EDF, will Suffolk businesses follow suit?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:56 08 October 2020
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Today East Suffolk lies at a crossroads – the future of the east of the county now seems certain to rest in the hands of London-based civil servants and ministers – and to be honest I don’t know which way they will jump when push comes to shove.
The deadline has now passed for councils, businesses, and residents to have their say on whether a two new nuclear reactors should be built on the Suffolk coast at Eastbridge, north of the existing stations at Sizewell.
Logic says they should be turned down. They would be uneconomic (EDF has had the devil’s own job in putting together a business case and there is still the question over whether Chinese money would be needed – even though we don’t want them in our mobile phone network), the plans proposed would destroy a lot of countryside, and there is now no need for such a damaging blot on the landscape.
But I do worry that there are some in government who do not understand the value of this area to the country as a whole who will be prepared to look on Sizewell C as a shiny investment to try to kick-start the UK economy after the pandemic and in a world no longer governed by EU rules, will pour in government subsidies to make up for the loss of Chinese money.
Because the promoters of the power station have done nothing to make it any more palatable than it has ever been. In my view, they have done nowhere near enough to ease the concerns of the local residents (many of whom welcomed Sizewell A and B with open arms).
They have not addressed the concerns of local MPs Dr Therese Coffey and Dr Dan Poulter (even though both have said they are in favour of the principle of nuclear power) and they have left Suffolk County Council exasperated and forced to object to the scheme.
They’ve even managed to turn East Suffolk Council “neutral” on Sizewell – its predecessor Suffolk Coastal was always seen as the project’s biggest cheerleader.
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One senior councillor said to me: “I’ve never been anti-nuclear. But we’ve been through this process now four times with EDF and they just don’t listen, whatever they say. They just don’t seem to understand the concerns that local people have. And that’s something I’ve heard time after time.”
There also seems to have been a failure on the part of EDF to talk to people with real concern about their impact on the local environment. I don’t believe there has never been an adequate explanation about why the Eastbridge Marshes would have to be sacrificed for the Sizewell Campus.
And as for the argument about creating a nature reserve some miles away in an unwanted field to compensate for an internationally renowned wetland area, that’s rather like say you can knock down St Paul’s Cathedral now because the Ipswich Odeon has been turned into a church!
One thing that has disappointed me is the number of Suffolk business groups and educational bodies supporting EDF, no matter what the cost to the future of the county itself.
I know there will be a lot of short and medium-term jobs created during the construction period (far more than a region like East Anglia could provide) but in the long term it has been predicted there will be the loss of hundreds of jobs in the tourist and hospitality sector if the region becomes less attractive to visitors.
Are jobs in tourism and working with the environment worth so much less than those that would be created at Sizewell?
If democratically-elected representatives of the people who live in the area have serious doubts about the wisdom of giving the project their blessing, why should we listen to business and education representatives (many of whom are based many miles away from the site itself) telling us how wonderful it is.
One business leader who knows exactly what effect Sizewell C would have on the area is Adnams boss (and former Local Enterprise Partnership chairman) Andy Wood. He knows exactly how damaging the power station would be for the Suffolk coast.
I just hope that now this crucial decision on the future of the Suffolk coast has to be decided by the government’s Planning Inspectorate and ministers that they will listen to the voices of those actually elected by local people (including a cabinet minister) and take the logical decision that Sizewell C is a power station too far.
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