Sizewell C protest groups insist: ‘we are here to stay and we won’t be silenced’
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:40 24 November 2016
Sarah Lucy brown
Campaigners are rallying with renewed determination to protect Suffolk from the unwanted consequences they fear a new nuclear power plant will bring.
EDF Energy’s long-awaited stage-two consultation for Sizewell C was met yesterday with dismay from communities neighbouring the proposed multibillion pound development site.
Campaign groups criticised the latest 300-page consultation as merely a “box-ticking exercise” which ignores objections raised four years ago.
While there was some support for the inclusion of a “two-villages bypass” on the A12 around Stratford St Andrew and Farnham, other elements of the proposals left campaigners “underwhelmed”. Concerns focused on the accommodation campus proposed for 2,500 temporary workers near Minsmere nature reserve, which residents say will have a “massive impact” on the neighbouring rural communities and environment.
EDF’s preferred road transport route along the B1122 has also provoked alarm for residents, who say it is “wholly unsuitable” for the volume of traffic expected during construction. Campaigners said they had called on EDF to come up with “creative solutions” to these problems and were left “disheartened” by the latest offer.
EDF stressed this was only the second of a three-stage consultation process to ensure “local communities have every opportunity to engage”.
But after four years, many of those gathered yesterday at the impromptu campaign headquarters at the Eel’s Foot in Eastbridge said they had expected EDF to provide greater detail and evidence for their proposals. With only “preliminary assessments” they say it is impossible to provide an informed response.
Members of the Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS), B1122 Action Group and Minsmere Levels Stakeholder Group, will be teaming up to hold exhibitions, titled “A Better Route to Sizewell C” alongside EDF’s own consultation events scheduled for the coming weeks.
Su Swallow, co-chairman of TEAGS, said: “We’re disappointed by the lack of movement from EDF. We’ve been pressing them for a long time to think of more creative solutions about how they will handle the workers’ accommodation and transport issues and yet there’s been no shift in what they propose.”
Alison Downes, TEAGS’ other co-chairman, added: “What has EDF been doing for the last four years since stage one? They have kicked the can down the road on these vital issues, making it very difficult for the public to respond.”
TEAGS’ John Rea Price said it seemed the small neighbouring communities “did not feature in EDF’s calculations”. However, he warned: “We are here to stay and we won’t be silenced.”
Charles Macdowell, of the B1122 Action Group, said he had been left “underwhelmed” by the proposals, which ignored his group’s suggestions for a new transport route, departing the A12 from near Saxmundham.
He said the narrow B1122 from Yoxford to the site, was “wholly unsuitable” for the 1,300 daily lorry movements predicted, which represented a “staggering” 722% increase on current levels.
“I would not call this a proper consultation,” he added. “It’s just a box-ticking exercise.”
A spokesman for EDF said the company was looking forward to hearing local views on its latest plans.
“It is important to stress that this is the second stage of a three stage consultation process to ensure local communities have every opportunity to engage with us,” the spokesman added.
The company said it had a statutory requirement to demonstrate consultation with local communities, adding that feedback from stage one had led to it developing a preferred position on some of the key elements of the proposals, while other parts of the plans remain as options.
Bypass proposals boosted by Autumn Statement and new options in consultation document
Hopes for a four villages bypass in east Suffolk were boosted by two pieces of positive news yesterday.
EDF Energy’s stage-two consultation contained for the first time options for a multi-million pound A12 bypass around Farnham and Stratford St Andrew.
Although the proposals fell short of the full scheme campaigners have been seeking for decades – which would also include Marlesford and Little Glemham – the £25million potential offer from EDF was welcomed by some.
Hopes were raised further in the Autumn Statement, which approved funding for transport projects including the “Suffolk Energy Gateway”, as the four village bypass is now called. The offer follows a £1million request from the Sizewell C Joint Local Authorities Group (JLAG) to support the project’s business case development.
JLAG chairman Guy McGregor said the group welcomed the news, which meant “we can now push on with further scheme preparation immediately”.
Geoff Holdcroft, chairman of Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Sizewell Task Group, said he was “extremely pleased” to hear the announcement.
“This project has the potential to open up the entire east coast of Suffolk, increasing accessibility and boosting all sections of the economy, bringing new growth, housing and helping our businesses,” he said.
Lord Marlesford, a long-standing campaigner for the bypass, said the announcement was “terrific news”. However he warned that the two-villages bypass included in EDF’s stage-two consultation was “wholly inappropriate” as it would fail to deal with the traffic problems on the A12 and create a “horrendous bottleneck” in Marlesford.
Debbi Tayler, clerk for Farnham and Stratford St Andrew Parish Council, said a public meeting would be held at 7pm on December 8 at the Riverside Centre to discuss the proposals.
Business and political leaders have their say on proposals
Chairman of the Sizewell C Joint Local Authorities Group, Guy McGregor, has urged people to take part in EDF’s consultation.
“It’s really important to attend the exhibitions, read the briefings and get yourself informed,” he said.
“This is a huge scheme, in a constrained space in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“We will do our very best to protect it, but people must also make their own views known through their town and parish councils.”
Mr McGregor said that while Sizewell offered potential economic benefits, there were also risks that tourism and other businesses could be adversely affected.
“The Government is in favour of nuclear power and Suffolk County Council, by and large, understand and accept that - but not at all costs.”
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, said: “Sizewell C will bring the opportunity of high skilled, high paid jobs to Suffolk and it will also bring disruption during its construction.
“We have waited a long time for this second stage of the public consultation and I expect there to be considerably more information available about traffic movements and similar. It is vital that residents and business owners contribute to the consultation.”
John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said he welcomed the “enormous opportunities” offered by Sizewell C.
“We know that for the last five decades the nuclear industry has been good for Suffolk in creating jobs, boosting skills and attracting in talent to the county,” he added.
“We believe that there are further considerable opportunities for the local business community both during the proposed Sizewell C station’s construction and once it is operational.”
Mr Dugmore urged businesses to work with the Suffolk Chamber to help shape key aspects of EDF’s proposals to “maximise the opportunities available”.
Business can visit www.sizewellcsupplychain.co.uk to register their company’s interest in providing goods and services for the project.
Impact on ‘priceless wildlife jewels’ sometimes overlooked
Amid the virtually universal local outcry of horror over EDF Energy’s proposal to create a “new town” for Sizewell C construction workers in a rural setting on the doorstep of one of Suffolk’s most idyllic hamlets, and the energy giant’s highly controversial plans for road access to the site, one environmental aspect of the mega-station project is sometimes overlooked, writes environment correspondent John Grant.
It is the inevitable loss that will be suffered by the Sizewell Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Such sites are the nation’s priceless wildlife jewels, protected because of their ecological importance.
The Sizewell SSSI currently covers just over 104 hectares and that will certainly be reduced if the C station is built. EDF says it will keep the loss to a minimum but the amount of SSSI that will be covered by concrete is yet to be revealed.
Natural England’s citation for the site says: “Sizewell Marshes are important for their large area of lowland, unimproved wet meadows which support outstanding assemblages of invertebrates and breeding birds. Several nationally scarce plants are also present.”
Among many species of wet meadow flora, the citation highlights the “nationally scarce” marsh dock and says an “extensive ditch system” supports a “diverse aquatic flora” that includes the “nationally scarce” soft hornwort, fen pondweed and whorled water-milfoil.
“Sizewell Marshes are of exceptional interest for their invertebrate fauna, supporting a wide range of taxa and many nationally rare or scarce species,” the citation adds.
EDF is currently creating 67 hectares of grassland, heath and wetland at nearby Aldhurst Farm, Leiston, to meet its legal obligation to compensate for any SSSI loss. Nevertheless, conservationists have expressed deep concerns over the SSSI diminution – many see such sites as being so important they should be inviolate.
There are also concerns over the potential hydrological impact Sizewell C would have on the SSSI area that is left during and after construction – and on the famous nearby Minsmere nature reserve.
Members of Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell and the Minsmere Levels Stakeholders Group said yesterday that the latest consultation document from EDF underplayed such issues.
“There’s almost nothing in it regarding hydrology and that is an absolutely key issue in relation to the SSSI – the ecological and hydrological issues are presented almost as if they are an afterthought,” said John Rea Price, a member of both groups.
“We will be boring away at EDF and holding them to account,” he said. “We will be honing and developing our questions for EDF to answer on these and all the other issues before the end of the consultation.”
Paul Collins, also a member of both groups, said there were major hydrological concerns over the workers’ accommodation campus as well as massive local objections to its proposed siting near Eastbridge.
The 2,400 workers would consume 250,000 litres of water a day – “that’s got to go somewhere,” he said. Such volumes could present major problems for the wellbeing of the SSSI, he added.
To find out more about the Better Route to Sizewell C exhibitions visit here.