Wildlife habitat will be created ahead of any Sizewell C decision

Work on a major new plant and wildlife habitat designed to compensate for the loss of specialised sites if Sizewell C is ever built is set to start this spring.

Community leaders are being urged to visit the land before making a decision as planning officers believe it is essential councillors see the 165-acre site for themselves to get an understanding of the project and how it will fit into the landscape.

They also needs to assess on the ground how the use of the land could affect any plans for the northward expansion of Leiston.

EDF Energy is to create the habitat regardless of whether the power station goes ahead – and it is hoped with long-term careful nurturing the land will eventually achieve Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation.

Of the 165 acres of farmland in the project at Lovers Lane, around 14 acres will be turned into a wetland area.

This will include wet reedbed, open-water and perimeter ditches within four groundwater basins together with marginal drier reed habitat.

Soils – including peat – excavated to create the basins will be used across the wider site to reduce the pH and fertility of the arable soils to create a “heathland mosaic” of landscape including grassland, heathland, scrub and scattered trees.

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Philip Ridley, head of planning and coastal management at Suffolk Coastal, said: “Supporting documents confirm that this proposal, proposed by EDF Energy, is a standalone proposal and will go ahead regardless of whether or not a new nuclear power station is proposed to be built at Sizewell.

“The applicant is proposing to be on site this spring in order to be ready for planting starting in July.

“An eight-month construction period is envisaged.

“Should the planning permission be consented and the development go ahead as planned, it is hoped by the applicant that in due course the site could be offered as partial compensatory habitat for that which is anticipated to be lost should a new nuclear power station at land to the north of Sizewell B Station be consented.

“However, there is not a current application proposed for a new nuclear power station, therefore this application must be considered on its own merits having regard to adopted local and national planning policies.”

Mr Ridley said the aim was to replicate Suffolk Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitats, to benefit and encourage a variety of wildlife to the site including vascular plants, invertebrates, water voles, otters, eels, amphibians, reptiles and breeding and wintering birds.

He said: “To the east of the site across Lovers Lane are the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB and Sizewell Marshes SSSI. The potential for enhancement in this location is therefore high with the main constraint being to ensure no adverse impact on the AONB or SSSI.”

The detailed specification for planting of the area will be examined by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Natural England – all of which have been involved in pre-application discussions.