Drug gangs and ‘pop-up brothels’ could target Sizewell C workforce

A CGI of what the Sizewell C nuclear power station will look like Picture: EDF ENERGY

A CGI of what the Sizewell C nuclear power station will look like Picture: EDF ENERGY - Credit: Archant

Fears have been voiced that the 10-year construction of Sizewell C could bring drug gangs and prostitution – including the sexual exploitation of women and teenage girls and “pop-up brothels” – to the area.

The Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership (SSP) – whose key members are the police, Suffolk County Council and the county’s health services – says there have been no risk assessments of the impact of the nuclear power station development on vulnerable groups and is calling for EDF Energy to hold a “risk summit” to examine the issues.

The partnership says it cannot support EDF’s proposals for the £20billion twin reactor as they stand.

EDF though says community safety is a priority and its proposed measures include securuty vetting and drug and alcohol testing of workers.

The SSP is particularly concerned at the plans to house more than 2,000 construction workers on a campus at Eastbridge, a “captive workforce” that could be easily targeted.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, SSP chair Anthony Douglas said: “There are unknown risks from the new workforce. They will not be DBS checked which would be a basic safeguard for the local population.

“It is likely that online prostitution and brothels in privately rented flats and houses will become a new local business throughout the construction period. This has happened in most similar developments internationally.

Most Read

“In the process, especially in the deprived parts of the sub-region, some girls and young women will be placed at risk as a consequence. Vulnerable young men and women do often seek relationships with people they don’t know and are therefore vulnerable to being exploited by older men.

“EDF have not considered these very real risks and issues for the individuals involved. There is no strategy put forward about how these risks will be mitigated.

“The likely recession following the pandemic increases this risk factor. Pop-up brothels were common in Leiston during the Sizewell B construction and today’s equivalent businesses are more diverse and know exactly how to reach and influence the workforce, especially the captive workforce in the planned campus.

“In terms of demand and supply, County Lines drug dealing (the illicit transfer of drugs from one area to another) follows the money. Whilst at the moment County Lines are more numerous in Ipswich and the West of Suffolk, especially towards Cambridgeshire, there is potential for a County Lines East to develop, given the likely high disposable income of the Sizewell workforce.”

The partnership is also concerned about the quality of life for older people – especially as the huge project will turn a quiet and peaceful area into a noisy, busy and “probably chaotic” environment – and the impact on people with learning disabilities.

A Sizewell C spokesman said: “Community safety is a priority for the project. We will be implementing a number of measures to keep the community safe, including security vetting and drug and alcohol testing of workers, and enforcement of a worker code of conduct setting out expected standards of behaviour both on and off the site.

“We will support stakeholders including social care, health and the emergency services through S106 contributions, and work collaboratively through a community safety working group to address any issues that might arise during construction.

“A key focus will be ensuring that project opportunities are open to all. Sizewell C will deliver jobs, training and a boost in skills leading to sustainable well-paid careers, which is more vital than ever with the recovery from the pandemic crisis.

“Our work with education leaders will equip the next generation of workers with access to those jobs and others in the region. Our links with local charities working in Opportunity Areas, such as Inspire Suffolk and Access Community Trust, is already underway and will widen the access to fulfilling careers.”

Mr Douglas added: ”The legacy of Sizewell B remains tangible in our health informatics. It is a significantly deprived population with higher levels of childhood obesity, tooth decay and smoking. There is little social mobility and the community remains isolated by poor road links and the inadequate transport infrastructure. Plans for Sizewell C should identify a better legacy than the 35 years which to date has followed the construction of Sizewell B.”