COUNCIL leaders and celebrities alike have voiced their concerns regarding plans for Sizewell C power station on the Suffolk coast.
Leaders of East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council wrote to EDF Energy in April, urging them to fully consider how and when they will consult with local communities as part of the planning process.
The councillors stated concern that any period of consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic will not give the community ‘the fullest opportunity possible to engage.’
Whilst the two councils ‘remain supportive of EDF Energy making the DCO submission’, both called on the energy provider to consult with the local authorities regarding their plans for speaking to the public.
In a joint statement, Leader of East Suffolk Council, Councillor Steve Gallant and Leader of Suffolk County Council, Councillor Matthew Hicks said: “Given the current Government guidance on social distancing, social isolation and public gatherings, we ask EDF Energy to delay the Section 56 consultation until such time as all parties are satisfied that appropriate public engagement can take place.
“Many of our staff are currently redeployed to support their local communities and the risk of sickness and self-isolation from the virus remains high.
“We are concerned that even in a few weeks’ time, it may still be incredibly challenging to consider entering a period of consultation on such an important subject.
“We feel that everyone who is interested in this development should be given the best possible opportunity to have their say.
“Before EDF Energy commences any public engagement, we would like them to commit to speaking to both authorities and the Government’s Planning Inspectorate so we can work with EDF Energy to see if a suitable solution can be found that works for all our communities.”
This concern was echoed by sixty leading business people, artists and well-known public figures who wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma asking for action to delay the application to build Sizewell C until after the coronavirus crisis is over.
According to East Anglian Daily Times, signees of the letter included actors Bill Nighy, Helen Atkinson Wood and Diana Quick, Dr Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, Hopkins Homes executive chairman James Hopkins, Lord Marlesford, the Duke of Grafton, and several former MPs including Ben Gummer.
An EDF spokesperson commented: “EDF announced a delay to the Sizewell C planning application on March 26 because of the coronavirus.
“We understand the need for all interested parties to participate in the examination of our planning application, and fully encourage them to do so.
“It is important to stress that the examination stage of the planning application process is unlikely to commence for approximately 5-6 months.
“Two stages have to happen first – the Planning Inspectorate has to undertake a 28-day internal assessment.
“It then runs a pre-examination phase when people are encouraged to read the proposals online or in leaflets EDF will distribute.
“This lasts at least a further 28 days, but EDF will ask the Planning Inspectorate to extend it to provide more time than usual.
“Only after this will the Planning inspectorate begin an examination phase to seek feedback from consultees.
“Sizewell C will provide a much needed boost to skills, training and well paid employment.
“64% of the construction cost for Hinkley Point C is being spent with UK companies and Sizewell C will further extend this investment being made in Britain.
“It is widely recognised by Trade Unions and the Chamber of Commerce that the project will help the UK’s economic recovery in the coming months.
“Sizewell was identified by Government as a strategically suitable site for a new nuclear power station following decades of low carbon generation on the Suffolk coast.
“The station will take approximately 10 years to build with about 3-4 years of peak construction activity.
“Our proposals have been shaped by the feedback from local residents leading to significant changes since we started consultation in 2012, such as a reduction in the size of the accommodation campus and additional land for ecology.”