Sizewell C: District chief warns communities that aspirations may have be scaled back over Sizewell C

Sizewell C

Sizewell C - Credit: Copyright EDF Energy 2012 - Stag

Communities looking for substantial investment to offset the impact of a third nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast may have to considerably scale back their aspirations, a planning chief warned last night.

A growing list of “very depressing” setbacks to the Sizewell C project means EDF Energy is looking to cut funding and limit its consultation exercises, a leading district councillor has said.

Andy Smith, cabinet member for planning at Suffolk Coastal, has raised serious concerns about the future of the development, which would be worth millions of pounds to the county’s economy and generate thousands of jobs.

However, EDF Energy said it remained committed to Sizewell C and to engaging with thousands of local people, and stressed that consultation was ongoing. The company also said it was too early to make decisions over mitigation measures.

Councillor Smith spoke after the project was beset with problems over recent months - with the French owned company announcing it would be “re-focusing its activities” in order to control costs on its planned Hinkley C station in Somerset, including a reduction in the number of people working on the scheme.

It was also disclosed that a new round of public consultations over plans for Sizewell C was likely to be delayed until next year.

The setbacks - which also included project partner Centrica pulling out - have been largely due to an ongoing stalemate between EDF and the Government over subsidies, with the firm requesting a higher guaranteed price for the electricity it generates - or “strike price” - than the Treasury is willing to part with.

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In his report to full council, which is set to be discussed tonight, Mr Smith says: “The Sizewell project has recently suffered a number of very depressing turns of events.

“A number of us recently visited the NNLAG (National Nuclear Local Authorities Group), specifically to hear from the Somerset councils about their experience with the Planning Inspectorate enquiry into the Hinkley Point station. That was unremittingly bad news, especially as to the Inspectorate’s negative attitude towards local communities, legacy issues and more. It was felt EDF would have come away from that process with a clear steer that there was a much reduced need to provide mitigation etc to an area hosting such projects, in our case, Sizewell.

“That was reflected very much when our officers met with senior EDF representatives, and heard that EDF wish to withdraw most of the funding for our Sizewell team, and to limit their involvement with the community over the coming year to a single two-day workshop on each of the major topics, such as ‘Transport’, or ‘Coastal Processes’ – a completely untenable and unrealistic approach in our view.

“Overlaid on these, the national, indeed the global, picture on nuclear power is appearing increasingly difficult.

“Effectively, all of this means that we are likely to have to scale down very considerably our aspirations around local benefits from the scheme, although we shall continue to work energetically to the contrary.”

A spokeswoman for EDF said mitigation was identified following environmental impact assessments and was therefore project specific. As a result, there is no link between what happens at Hinkley and what could happen at Sizewell.

“This assessment will be carried out in due course in consultation with all relevant stakeholders,” she added.

Addressing the issue of wider talks with local communities she said they provided an update on Sizewell C at a forum last month, during which it was explained they would be focusing their efforts on analysing the 1,300 responses received at Stage 1 consultation and progressing some of the essential studies for the project - there was also a regular community newsletter which went to 20,000 people.

The spokeswoman added: “We are working with the local authorities to prepare a comprehensive series of workshops where they can engage with us on the essential aspects of the project that are being developed this year. This work will be in addition to the regular meetings we have with the local authorities on the project.”

She said they also provided updates through a community newsletter and next week would be having a stand at the Suffolk Show, while an information office was open weekdays in Leiston for anyone who had any questions.

The EADT launched the Bypass 4 the Villages campaign to fight for a new road to built as part of the power station development.