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Sizewell C is not good for Suffolk coast – but is council being tough enough?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:24 07 February 2019

Officials from the Therberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS), B1122 Action Group and Minsmere
Levels Stakeholder Group at the Eels Foot Inn in Eastbridge  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Officials from the Therberton and Eastbridge Action Group on Sizewell (TEAGS), B1122 Action Group and Minsmere Levels Stakeholder Group at the Eels Foot Inn in Eastbridge Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A few weeks ago I outlined my concerns about the proposals to build Sizewell C power station in a part of the world I know well and is probably the most attractive part of the Suffolk coastline.

The rich wildlife around Eastbridge is a magnet for tourists. How would the industry be affected by a huge new construction site in the middle of it? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe rich wildlife around Eastbridge is a magnet for tourists. How would the industry be affected by a huge new construction site in the middle of it? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Since then I’ve met senior people from EDF and also heard some enlightening comments from local councillors.

The overall result of these conversations I’ve had is that in my mind the case against the power station is even more compelling.

My arguments against Sizewell C have always been based on the environmental damage it would do to the heritage coast and the economics of the industry which I still believe mean further nuclear plants are not viable.

I don’t have any worries about the technology. I think Sizewell A and B were good for the area – and if conditions had permitted Sizewell C to be “piggy-backed” on the second power station 20 years ago that would have been fine.

But the proposals for Sizewell C as they now stand will cause totally unacceptable damage to one of the most environmentally sensitive and diverse habitats in the country – and threatens to destroy the social cohesion of a part of the county that is very precious to me.

Having met senior figures from EDF, including project director Jim Crawford, I don’t think they are “Dr Evil” figures intent on destroying the Suffolk countryside.

I think they have been given the task of trying to push through a major project on land already owned by EDF – and trying to do so under new government constraints imposed since the construction of Sizewell B.

Government scientists at CEFAS in Lowestoft have apparently told EDF that a short jetty like that built for Sizewell B would cause too much damage to the seabed – so an 800-metre construction would be needed (that proposal has been abandoned).

The Eastbridge campus would be necessary for all the construction workers. That would have to be built on incredibly sensitive farmland that has always been a vital part of the eco-system that includes Minsmere and Dunwich Heath.

What has strengthened my personal opposition to the proposed power station is further doubts that have been raised about the economic viability of nuclear power stations and the government’s ability to underwrite the long-term cost of decommissioning in the face of continued austerity and the doubts over Brexit.

I’ve even heard it suggested that Hinkley Point C in Somerset might not ever be completed after Japanese giants Toshiba and Hitachi pulled out of proposed projects in Cumbria and north Wales.

That must raise a huge question mark over Sizewell C – and it would certainly be better to call the whole thing off before any diggers start on the ground.

Another issue that has really worried me over the last few weeks is the attitude of Suffolk Coastal council to this project. Within days of my article appearing I had to speak to two senior figures from the council on another matter.

Both ended their conversation by chiding me over my first opinion piece about Sizewell C. Both made the point that it would bring thousands of jobs to the area during construction.

I’m sorry, but this is coming from the same council that is running around telling people that there aren’t currently enough homes for people to live in – and to the best of my knowledge there isn’t a massive unemployment problem in Suffolk Coastal.

I got the distinct feeling that this was an authority preparing to go into delicate negotiations with EDF by being ready to lie down and have its tummy tickled by the big energy company.

That left me feeling that it was probably good that Suffolk Coastal is being wound up in three months’ time and replaced by East Suffolk Council – which might be big enough to have the guts to stand up to EDF.

Because it would be a massive shame if the council’s desire to attract thousands of short-term jobs during the construction phase which destroyed the heritage coast led to the loss of hundreds of long-term jobs in the tourist industry.

Millions of people know the Suffolk Coast from its appearances on Springwatch and numerous other wildlife programmes. It’s become a real tourist magnet. The jobs this industry has created are very important – they have to be considered alongside future employment at Sizewell C.

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