Sizewell C will be ‘catastrophic’ for coast, warns Wildlife Trust

The latest round of consultation on the Sizewell C project is under way Picture: EDF ENERGY/SIZEWELL

The latest round of consultation on the Sizewell C project is under way Picture: EDF ENERGY/SIZEWELL C - Credit: Archant

EDF Energy has outlined changes to its plans which it says will reduce the use of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by using brownfield land for critical buildings that need to be moved, and also to create more fen meadow.

However, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust is still opposing the plans – which are currently before the Planning Inspectorate – and says the development would be “devastating for nature”.

MORE: EDF proposes more rail and sea deliveries for Sizewell C

This week the Government has announced ‘greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes’ and has promised to designate more AONB and “to protect and restore our natural environment and diverse ecosystems”.

SWT says Sizewell C would destroy or damage an area the size of around 900 football pitches – 500 hectares – in the middle of the officially designated Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, while a Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and a RAMSAR site would also be impacted.

The land includes nationally rare wildlife habitats such as heathland, oak woods, sand dunes, shingle, fen, marsh, reedbed and natural grassland, home to many rare plants, insects, and birds such as barn owl, marsh harrier and kingfisher, and mammals such as water vole.

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Christine Luxton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust said: “Sizewell C would destroy a vast swathe of the Suffolk coastline in one of the most beautiful natural parts of the UK. People visit this part of Suffolk from all over the country to enjoy the wild countryside. If this vast development gets the go-ahead, an area of the coast the size of 900 football pitches will be directly affected by the development. Barn owls, water voles and kingfishers will see their habitat destroyed.

“Nature is already in huge trouble and the sheer scale of this development will make a bad situation much, much worse. We will not solve the climate crisis by destroying natural habitats that lock-up carbon. This is the wrong time and the wrong place for such a colossal and damaging development.”

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“We do not believe it would be possible to make up for the damage Sizewell C would cause to the natural world on this extraordinarily beautiful stretch of coastline.

“We are deeply concerned that the suggested mitigation and compensation would never balance the huge loss to biodiversity and the impacts on our protected sites and species. Whilst compensation sites can be vital to offset any habitat destruction, they cannot replace the higher value of long-established sites with a rich mosaic of species.

“At a time of climate and ecological emergency, we need to find truly sustainable solutions which do not add to the problem by destroying internationally and nationally-important wild places for nature.”

The changes proposed by EDF include an additional site as further mitigation for a small loss of fen meadow habitat on the SSSI. Along with the existing sites at Benhall and Halesworth, a site near Pakenham in West Suffolk has been identified for a project to enhance the biodiversity of the land.

Other changes include a proposed change to the design of the SSSI crossing to a 30m long single-span bridge with embankments. The bridge design would retain “significantly more space” around the Leiston Drain and reduce the amount of SSSI land take. It would provide additional flood relief and greater connectivity for species including water voles, otters and bats, helping wildlife populations.

Katy McGuinness, environment planning manager for Sizewell C, said projects like Aldhurst Farm nature reserve and the Studio Field complex at Sizewell Gap had been developed already with the aim of mitigating the impact building Sizewell C could have on wildlife in and around the temporary construction area.

She added: “Taking inspiration from a similar project in Dorset, we intend to establish an independent Environmental Trust to manage the ongoing re-wilding and biodiversity of the growing Sizewell estate. We will commit to contributing to the Trust every year during the operation of Sizewell C, with a view to expanding and connecting further parcels of land identified for re-wilding and habitat creation.”

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