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Award winning farm could be ruined by new road to Sizewell C power station

PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:54 10 February 2020

Contractors Joe and Philip Bloomfield alongside farm owners Belinda and David Grant at Fordley Hall Farm with their award  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Contractors Joe and Philip Bloomfield alongside farm owners Belinda and David Grant at Fordley Hall Farm with their award Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Suffolk's 'best small farm' could be partially bulldozed to make way for a new road serving Sizewell C nuclear power station.

Map showing the route of the Sizewell Link Road, which runs through Fordley Hall Farm Picutre: EDFMap showing the route of the Sizewell Link Road, which runs through Fordley Hall Farm Picutre: EDF

Fordley Hall Farm, in Middleton, picked up two trophies at last year's Suffolk Agricultural Association Awards, where it was praised for its conservation work.

But it is now in the firing line for EDF Energy's Sizewell Link Road, which is being proposed to take construction traffic - 750-1,500 lorry movements per day - from the A12 to the build site.

David and Belinda Grant, who have spent 14 years developing the farm along an eco-friendly agenda, said the new road, together with a connection to the B1122, would split their land in three and take around 60 of its 250 available acres out of action. It would also divide their fields into parcels of land too small to farm effectively, they said.

EDF said the link road was proposed in response to concerns about using the B1122 and would divert traffic away from properties. The company added its discussions with landowners would be held "fairly and confidentially".

David and Belinda Grant at the Suffolk Agricultural Association awards Picture: DAVID GRANTDavid and Belinda Grant at the Suffolk Agricultural Association awards Picture: DAVID GRANT

The Grants criticised EDF's route, particularly as it is unlikely provide a lasting legacy after the power station has been built and may have to be dug up. They have called on EDF to look again at plans to move materials by rail.

Mr Grant, 69, said: "The farm will never be the same again if the road goes ahead. There will be light pollution, noise pollution, and air pollution all directly affecting it - we will never overcome those problems, The whole proposal just seems so unnecessary when there are other solutions available that could leave a long-term benefit."

Joe Bloomfield, who farms Fordley Hall with his father Philip, as part of a profit sharing enterprise with the Grants, said the road would have a "massive impact". "We have enough trouble now, let alone with another 1,000 lorries," he said. "Logistically, it's going to be a nightmare."

Mr Bloomfield said several other farms he works at in the area would also be affected.

Farm owners Belinda and David Grant at Fordley Hall Farm  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDFarm owners Belinda and David Grant at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

EDF had intended for Sizewell C traffic to follow the B1122, which leaves the A12 at Yoxford and travels through Middleton and Theberton to Leiston.

After residents, parish councils and campaigners raised concerns about the narrow road's suitability for construction traffic, EDF revised its proposals.

But the multimillion pound link road proposal has also run into trouble. Campaign groups, together with Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council, favour the so-called 'D2' route, which was first proposed as an option for Sizewell B, and would see traffic leave the A12 south of Saxmundham cross the B1119 and onwards north of Leiston.

A report produced for Suffolk County Council found D2, was the most direct route but also the most expensive at £54m. EDF said the report found D2 had "many disadvantages over other options", including on the environment, heritage and landscape.

Red deer cross the farm land at Fordley Hall Picture: DAVID GRANTRed deer cross the farm land at Fordley Hall Picture: DAVID GRANT

But supporters of the route claim it would mean less disturbance, as it follows a flatter, scarcely populated landscape, and could provide a lasting benefit - a more direct route between Leiston and the southbound A12. A report commissioned by landowners also found it would disturb fewer listed properties.

With opposition mounting against its route, EDF commissioned a 'peer review' of its choice of route, which was completed in April 2019, but not made public until later that year.

The report considered four possible routes, allocating each a score based on criteria such as costs, relief to communities, and impact on landscape. EDF's preferred route - route Z - scored the best against the criteria and was recommended by the report.

But now it has emerged Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council have questioned the review's methodology.

One of the many ponds at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: DAVID GRANTOne of the many ponds at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: DAVID GRANT

The councils said the review "does not fully answer concerns" that the route may not be the best option. It called on EDF to provide more evidence.

Mr and Mrs Grant are also calling on EDF to think again. They have teamed up with others to issue a consultation response on behalf of "the farmers and landowners whose homes and livelihoods would be permanently blighted by EDF's road proposals".

It said: "Again, we implore EDF to look at the matter afresh and to adopt a more imaginative or innovative approach to avoid this major and permanent environmental blight."

Charles Macdowell, a member of Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell and the B1122 Action Group on Sizewell said EDF's proposed route, had "so little value" SCC had suggested digging it up afterwards. "The alternative 'W' would instead leave a positive legacy for Leiston and the immediate area," he added.

Sizewell in the distance from Fordley Hall Farm  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDSizewell in the distance from Fordley Hall Farm Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

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Mr Macdowell also criticised EDF's review on the options, saying it had "more holes in it than a Swiss cheese". "No wonder EDF delayed showing it to anyone for months," he added.

Link road will 'divert traffic away from properties', says EDF

Contractors Joe and Philip Bloomfield at Fordley Hall Farm  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDContractors Joe and Philip Bloomfield at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

EDF Energy said the proposal for a link road was put forward in response to feedback from residents in villages along the B1122.

The company added: "The option was also given to remove the road after the construction of Sizewell C.

"The Sizewell link road will bypass Yoxford, Middleton Moor and Theberton and will divert traffic away from most of the properties on the A12 in Yoxford.

Cattle at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: DAVID GRANTCattle at Fordley Hall Farm Picture: DAVID GRANT

"We are in discussions with landowners in the area and will conduct that engagement fairly and confidentially."

EDF's consultation documents also said that while the D2 route had been proposed for Sizewell B there had since been a "considerable rise in environmental protection standards" for new developments.

The peer review it commissioned found its preferred route scored best based on a range of factors, such as impact on communities. It was done by a transport specialist.

A history of Fordley Hall Farm

David and Belinda Grant said they began farming at Fordley Hall Farm "more by default than by design".

The couple bought the hall in 2003 but only took on the farmland two years later on advice from a friend when it came on the market.

Mr Grant said that despite having no farming experience there had been "no regrets" after taking the plunge.

The farm's regular cropping includes wheat, oil seed rape, spring barley, beans and sugar beet. But it is the 100 acres or so of traditional woods, ponds and pastures that make it most special for the Grants.

"It's the most lovely thing I've ever had in my life, apart from my wife," Mr Grant said.

The farm is a habitat for a range of wildlife, including a migratory route for red deer.

Although it is not a hugely profitable, it generates income for the Grants and contractors Philip and Joe Bloomfield, allowing investment in soil improvement.

Joe said his workers "love coning here to farm - it's not the most profitable bit of farming, but it's the peace and quiet."

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