Opponents urge Sizewell C delay during coronavirus crisis

An CGI of how Sizewell C would look Picture: EDF ENERGY

An CGI of how Sizewell C would look Picture: EDF ENERGY - Credit: Archant

Opponents campaigning against a new nuclear reactor at Sizewell have written to the government urging EDF to halt its plans until the coronavirus lockdown has passed.

Councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at Suffolk County Council wrote to business secretary Alok Sharma over fears EDF will submit a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Sizewell C project in May.

But EDF said the lengthy application process means it could be six months before the plans can be debated in public, at which point social distancing may have eased.

EDF was originally due to submit a DCO at the end of March, but the move was put back several weeks.

The energy firm is required to submit the order due to the scale and impact of the proposed £14billion third reactor at Sizewell, on the Suffolk coast.

A submission of the documents would trigger a period of formal debate.

But campaigners fear doing so would be inappropriate while social distancing guidelines are in place, preventing discussion of the plans.

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The cross-party county councillor group is the latest set of key figures to express their concerns, believing public debate would be “impossible” during the Covid-19 crisis.

Group leader Penny Otton said: “We are very concerned over the ability of stakeholders to fully engage in consultations during the current crisis.

“Professional bodies are coping with staff sickness and redeployment, members of the public are preoccupied with looking after ill friends and relatives or grieving, and local authorities are rightly focusing on keeping residents safe.

“It therefore does not seem appropriate to start a consultation on Sizewell C until social distancing restrictions are lifted.”

However, EDF argues it could be months before the debate period can commence, as the government’s planning inspectorate must examine the proposals before they are made public.

A spokesman said: “It is important to stress that the examination stage of the planning application process is unlikely to commence for approximately five to six months.”

MORE: MP Dan Poulter voices concerns over Sizewell C consent bid during virus crisis