This week we had big fanfares and a major ceremony to "mark the start" of construction at Sizewell C.

But what did it all mean? 

In one sense construction has already started. Land has been dug up, mature trees have been cut down, and one of the new entrances to the site is being cleared.

However, the Final Investment Decision (FID), the point at which the various parties are committed to building the station is still, apparently, several months away - so Monday's ceremony really does look like nothing but a piece of political theatre.

East Anglian Daily Times: Work has already started on the Sizewell C site.Work has already started on the Sizewell C site. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

What is clear, though, is that there is clear political will for this project to go ahead. The Government and the official opposition are both committed to it whatever the cost they may be exposed to.

I can understand that. I still don't think it makes a great deal of economic sense - but given the uncertainties across the globe and the need to move to carbon zero energy I can see why they want to proceed with nuclear whatever the cost.

Personally I don't have any concerns about the potential safety of the plant - while there are potential dangers with nuclear generation the experience over the last 60 years in this country suggests it can be operated safely.

And given that there are already two nuclear plants at Sizewell that need to be protected from the sea, it doesn't seem unreasonable to put the new plant next to them so the protection can be shared.

However I still have serious concerns with EDF and the government - who must be seen as equal partners in the project - over the way it is going to be built and the devastating impact it will have on local communities.

By adopting a "bull in a china shop" attitude towards its construction, EDF and the government are planning to cause substantial environmental damage to some of the most precious parts of the Heritage Coast that are closely linked in with Minsmere and Dunwich Heath.

It didn't have to be like that. There was a 1990 plan for Sizewell C that would have been built more or less on the footprint that is now proposed - but without causing damage by creating a "campus" on the Eastbridge side of the site.

It had planned to use the existing entrance and service area that had already been created for the construction of Sizewell B.

It's all very well offering alternative sites for wildlife like part of Aldhurst Farm. The point about the land next to Eastbridge Marshes is that it's already there as part of a diverse ecosystem stretching from Sizewell all the way to Dunwich Heath and beyond. 

Creating a new nature reserve two miles inland is great - but it can't replace a massive area that's directly linked to the coast.

But I fear that battle is lost now. With both the current government and the likely future government keen on the project, the best we can hope for is that some new habitats will make up for the lost treasures.

I am encouraged that Nick Collinson from the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths group was so positive about Sizewell's contribution to the area - but it still concerns me that the project has failed to convince other long-established guardians of the countryside like the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

There's also been a failure to really engage with local people. There have now been local community forums set up but they are being treated with suspicion by many.

The record of EDF telling local people what they're going to do in "consultation" meetings rather than giving any impression of actually listening to concerns will take a long time to be forgotten.

That is a policy that managed to turn many of those who had been supportive of Sizewell A and B off the latest project - it will need a long charm offensive to win them back again!

The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of Paul Geater and do not necessarily reflect views held by this newspaper, its sister publications or its owner and publisher Newsquest Media Group Ltd.