Sizewell: Group united in support of Suffolk’s precious coast

David Wood

David Wood

The Sizewell C Suffolk Environmental Stakeholders Group was formed so that the natural environment of the Suffolk coast could be represented with one voice – and as they spoke out publicly for the first time, members of the group were certainly united when it came to expressing their determination to see that the best possible outcome is achieved.

Sizewell power station

Sizewell power station - Credit: Archant � 2008

Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS) director Fiona Cairns said: “The collection of experts which make up the group will work collectively to promote sustainable development, each making an important contribution from their own specialist discipline. We will endeavour to safeguard the finest aspects of the Suffolk coast and landscape and seek to mitigate the impact associated with hosting national infrastructure in this delicate environment.

“The magnitude of effects of the proposed Sizewell C upon the heritage coast, the nearby historic towns and villages, nationally important heritage assets, sensitive landscape and habitats requires the most careful assessment and scrutiny. It is imperative that robust and defensible design principles are put in place to ensure the best outcomes for the community and the natural and built environment. “

She added: “Sizewell C will be the largest development built in the county for many years and its impact on the Suffolk coast and surrounding countryside will leave its mark for generations to come. This is a new development which Suffolk must absorb into its subtle fabric, so it must be a celebration of good design, uplifting in aspect, respectful of its surroundings and mindful of its architectural heritage. “

The RSPB’s Suffolk area manager Ben McFarland said: “The new group is incredibly important, not only for the RSPB, but also for all conservation and wildlife organisations on the coast.” The group would “ensure a strong, clear and coherent message can be delivered to EDF,” he said. “By working together we can help to minimise the impact this development may have on the many important habitats and species surrounding the site, including the RSPB’s flagship nature reserve, Minsmere.

“Clearly for the RSPB, with the location right on the doorstep of Minsmere, the design of Sizewell C is critical. We would like to see a modern design that reflects the importance of the location within the AONB. We would like to see the dome covered, similar to Sizewell B. Other visible buildings should be designed to fit into the landscape. The design needs to be an environmental exemplar that recognises the sensitivity of this special area. A bare concrete dome, for example, would not be acceptable to us.”

Martin Atkinson, the National Trust’s general manager for east Suffolk, said: ”This AONB is of national and international importance and it is vital that the design of Sizewell C takes into account both the visual and ecological impacts it will have in such an important area. Sizewell C has the potential to be a development that is held up as an exemplar to others and putting the ecological and visual impacts at the heart of its design will help achieve that.”

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The importance of collaborative working as a mechanism to harness local knowledge and ecological expertise could not be over-stated, said Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s head of conservation Dorothy Casey. “Working with other conservation organisations is key to improving co-ordination, sharing knowledge and pooling resources to achieve the best outcomes for wildlife and minimise impacts of this major development on important habitats and species,” she said.

It was “vital” that every effort was made to ensure that Sizewell C’s design did not detract from the Suffolk coast and heaths designated landscape, AONB chairman David Wood, said. It might, he added, “even add to the mystique of our fantastic coastline which is why it is important that we play a full part in the consultation.”

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, Richard Smith, said: “The rationale for setting up the Suffolk environmental stakeholder group was that by speaking with one voice on matters where we could form a consensus, we would be more able to influence EDF’s thinking. Indeed, the very existence of the group and what it is saying should be helpful to EDF, particularly as it moves forward to stage 2 consultation. We aim to ensure that Sizewell C is the best it can be from a landscape and wildlife perspective and that Suffolk is not short-changed by it being built.”

Joint Local Authorities Group chairman Andy Smith said the Sizewell C project would be “a tremendous opportunity for the economy of Suffolk, especially the Suffolk Coastal area”. The local authorities were working with their counterparts in Somerset, where Hinkley C has been given the go-ahead, “to learn from their experience in dealing with the issues involved.”

He added: “In Suffolk, we have been determined from the start to ensure that the county and district councils work together in leading the process to minimise the impact on the local communities, while maximising the benefits for people in this area from hosting a nuclear power station. The core of our joint strategy is to work as closely as we possibly can with local communities and other bodies so that, together, we have as great an influence as possible on the way this project develops.

“But beyond that, Sizewell is a special case given that it is located in an AONB, and on our treasured but vulnerable coastline. Crucially, therefore, we are paying very special attention to ensuring that these are protected. So, in line with our overall approach, we have made particular efforts to ensure that we can collaborate closely with other groups who share the same objective of protecting our fragile environment. We will do all in our power, via that joined-up approach, to work with EDF Energy to achieve the quality outcomes in terms of visual and other environmental impacts, and the relationship with the coast, that Suffolk deserves.”