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Will the Suffolk coast fall victim to coronavirus as government splashes the cash?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 July 2020

Sizewell C would be built to the north of the existing nuclear site - using land that is essentially part of the Minsmere Nature Reserve.  Picture: Mike Page

Sizewell C would be built to the north of the existing nuclear site - using land that is essentially part of the Minsmere Nature Reserve. Picture: Mike Page

Mike Page

I’ve never disguised the fact that I feel that the proposed Sizewell C power station would be a disaster for East Suffolk and would effectively destroy the most important part of the county’s Heritage Coast.

It’s a part of the world that is very important to me – I was born at Eastbridge and lived within five miles of Sizewell for the first 27 years of my life.

MORE: Why I’m worried about the Sizewell C proposals

Until now I’ve always been optimistic that the proposals for this plant, which would be built on what is – effectively – part of the Minsmere Nature Reserve, would be scrapped because the economics just don’t make sense.

However, I’m now beginning to fear that the Suffolk Coast – with all the jobs it provides in tourism, leisure, and wildlife management – will be fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic as the government looks for projects to throw money at in the hope of creating jobs to get Britain out of the 21st century’s Great Depression.

I’ve always felt that the environmental arguments don’t really cut any ice with EDF and the other groups promoting Sizewell C. Yes their promoters will smile and nod earnestly when confronted by genuine concerns from organisations like the RSPB and National Trust as well as local residents – but when push comes to shove they don’t seem prepared to make any real compromises or do anything to limit the damage they would cause.

They still seem hell-bent on destroying the Eastbridge marshes, an integral part of the Minsmere ecosystem, to create their new campus while the station is being built. Villages would be ruined by traffic because there is no proposal to bring in material by sea as they did when Sizewell B was built.

And that ignores the fact that nuclear-generated electricity is much more expensive than that from the sun or wind.

That was what persuaded me that EDF and the government would accept that it is totally uneconomic to go ahead with putting this outdated behemoth on our beach.

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In rejecting it, there would be a real boost to the local economy. Jobs in the tourist and leisure sectors would be ensured for years or decades ahead. Villages would be protected and the Suffolk coast (hardly the unemployment blackspot it was when Sizewell B was built in the 1980s) would be able to evolve and retain its wonderful character.

Local people recognise that. I know that many who welcomed Sizewell B have been appalled at the plans for Sizewell C and the way it is being planned with no thought to the local environment.

The local councils recognise that. Both Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Coastal were broadly supportive of Sizewell B. That isn’t what you hear from the planners and councillors at either the county or East Suffolk Council now!

The fear is that while locally there is a great deal of disquiet, the further you move away from the Suffolk coast, the attitude changes.

And if the government wants to plunge billions of pounds into what it sees as “job creation” schemes, why not start on the Suffolk coast in an area where it doesn’t have to worry about the voters because it knows they’ll all vote Tory in the next general election anyway?

The business community is also interesting – while Suffolk-wide organisations like the Chamber of Commerce seem very keen to work with EDF, those who actually understand the East Suffolk economy like Adnams boss (and former Local Enterprise Partnership chair) Andy Wood understand just how devastating Sizewell C would be for existing businesses in the area.

And I’m really surprised and saddened by some of the comments I’ve had about the jobs that are likely to be associated with Sizewell C.

Yes, during construction there will be thousands of temporary jobs created there. Far, far more than then local area can supply so the entire local economy will be distorted for about five to 10 years by thousands of workers from outside the area who have no intention of putting down roots here.

The number of long-term jobs running the station will be significant, and will be highly-paid. But will they outnumber the jobs lost in tourism and leisure sectors?

One last point, I have been told by some of those promoting the EDF plans: “Yes, I know some existing jobs will be lost, but this will provide well-paid jobs.”

I know there will a lot of money to be made. But in my experience while those in tourist-related businesses might not be particularly well paid, they do generally enjoy a great deal of job satisfaction.

And money isn’t everything!


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