More rail and sea deliveries proposed for Sizewell C, but opponents hit out
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 November 2020 | UPDATED: 08:47 18 November 2020
Consultation has been launched today on a series of proposed changes to the plans for Sizewell C – which EDF Energy says would take hundreds of lorries a day off Suffolk’s roads during its construction.
As revealed last month, the company wants to increase substantially the amount of materials being delivered by rail and sea, cutting by 20% the amount travelling by road if the twin reactor nuclear power station is given the go-ahead.
Opponents though say it is “laughable” it has taken so long for changes to be made to the strategy for delivering construction materials – after years of protests.
And they claim EDF is still not disclosing important offshore survey results which are “critical” for its second beach landing facility plans.
Richard Bull, head of transport planning for Sizewell C, said: “Following feedback from East Suffolk and Suffolk County Councils, and from responses to our Development Consent Order (DCO) proposals, we have continued to investigate ways to increase rail and sea deliveries.
“We have been able to identify more of our required material from areas with good rail and sea connections. There is now potential to reduce the total amount of material being moved by road to around 40%.
“If this can be achieved it will be possible to reduce HGV numbers on an average typical day at the peak of construction to 250 (500 two-way movements) and 350 HGVs (700 two-way movements) on the busiest day. This represents a reduction of 150 HGVs on the very busiest day (300 two-way movements) compared to the numbers in the DCO submission.”
Documents issued today in connection with the 30-day consultation say the company is looking at building a beach landing facility for the delivery of large loads by sea and a second temporary landing facility.
Talks are ongoing with Network Rail to see how many extra trains could run.
Options being considered include running four trains (seven overnight movements) rather than three trains (five overnight movements); using five trains a day during the busiest period of construction; and running trains six days a week (Monday to Saturday). Mr Bull said: “We fully understand the concerns about noise on the East Suffolk Line – particularly for overnight freight deliveries. We are investigating continuous welded rail lines, the use of slower speeds and the types of trains that could be used to keep noise to a minimum.”
To cut the amount of materials needing to be moved, EDF would reduce the volume of material that needs to be moved away from the site by using it as fill or for landscaping. Rail and sea will be used “where practicable” and where road remains necessary the aim will be to ensure reduced local impacts via the use of defined routes and systems to control the number and timing of HGV movements.
Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, Sizewell C managing director, said: “We take the feedback from the councils, MPs and local people extremely seriously and would like to make these updates to our proposals in good time so they can be considered by the planning inspectorate and all interested parties during the next phase of this process.
“We hope these changes will give even greater confidence to local communities that the benefits of this project for Suffolk will far outweigh the potential impacts during construction.”
But Paul Collins, chair of Stop Sizewell C, said: “It’s laughable that it has taken almost 1,300 responses to EDF’s DCO application, and the opposition of the county council and scores of parishes and four previous consultation stages for EDF to begin to listen about HGV traffic and site access.
“EDF is still not making public its surveys of the offshore Sizewell Dunwich Banks – critical for its proposals for a second Beach Landing Facility and its sea defences – nor its evidence over how much CO2 will be emitted during construction.”
Mr Collins said residents were also unhappy at having received more letters for fields and gardens needed in connection with road infrastructure plans, which he described as “land grab”.
Nature experts in Suffolk are also angry over the proposals for the £20billion Sizewell C project – and say they would be “catastrophic” for the county’s wildlife-rich and fragile coast.
EDF Energy has outlined changes to its plans which it says will reduce the use of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by using brownfield land for critical buildings that need to be moved, and also to create more fen meadow.
However, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust is still opposing the plans – which are currently before the Planning Inspectorate – and says the development would be “devastating for nature”.
This week the Government has announced ‘greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes’ and has promised to designate more AONB and “to protect and restore our natural environment and diverse ecosystems”.
SWT says Sizewell C would destroy or damage an area the size of around 900 football pitches – 500 hectares – in the middle of the officially designated Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, while a Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and a RAMSAR site would also be impacted.
The land includes nationally rare wildlife habitats such as heathland, oak woods, sand dunes, shingle, fen, marsh, reedbed and natural grassland, home to many rare plants, insects, and birds such as barn owl, marsh harrier and kingfisher, and mammals such as water vole.
Christine Luxton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “Sizewell C would destroy a vast swathe of the Suffolk coastline in one of the most beautiful natural parts of the UK. People visit this part of Suffolk from all over the country to enjoy the wild countryside. If this vast development gets the go-ahead, an area of the coast the size of 900 football pitches will be directly affected by the development. Barn owls, water voles and kingfishers will see their habitat destroyed.
“Nature is already in huge trouble and the sheer scale of this development will make a bad situation much, much worse. We will not solve the climate crisis by destroying natural habitats that lock-up carbon. This is the wrong time and the wrong place for such a colossal and damaging development.
“We do not believe it would be possible to make up for the damage Sizewell C would cause to the natural world on this extraordinarily beautiful stretch of coastline.
“We are deeply concerned that the suggested mitigation and compensation would never balance the huge loss to biodiversity and the impacts on our protected sites and species. Whilst compensation sites can be vital to offset any habitat destruction, they cannot replace the higher value of long-established sites with a rich mosaic of species.
“At a time of climate and ecological emergency, we need to find truly sustainable solutions which do not add to the problem by destroying internationally and nationally-important wild places for nature.”
The latest changes proposed by EDF’s consultation include an additional site as further mitigation for a small loss of fen meadow habitat on the SSSI. Along with the existing sites at Benhall and Halesworth, a site near Pakenham in West Suffolk has been identified for a project to enhance the biodiversity of the land.
Other changes include a proposed redesign of the SSSI crossing to a 30m long single-span bridge with embankments. The bridge design would retain “significantly more space” around the Leiston Drain and reduce the amount of SSSI land take. It would provide additional flood relief and greater connectivity for species including water voles, otters and bats, helping wildlife populations.
Katy McGuinness, environment planning manager for Sizewell C, said projects like Aldhurst Farm nature reserve and the Studio Field complex at Sizewell Gap had been developed already with the aim of mitigating the impact building Sizewell C could have on wildlife in and around the temporary construction area.
She added: “Taking inspiration from a similar project in Dorset, we intend to establish an independent Environmental Trust to manage the ongoing re-wilding and biodiversity of the growing Sizewell estate. We will commit to contributing to the Trust every year during the operation of Sizewell C, with a view to expanding and connecting further parcels of land identified for re-wilding and habitat creation.”