Sixty leading business people, artists and well-known public figures have today written to the government asking for action to delay the application to build Sizewell C until after the coronavirus crisis is over.
Actors Bill Nighy, Helen Atkinson Wood and Diana Quick, broadcasters Bill Turnbull and Libby Purves, artist Maggi Hambling, and film director Paul Greengrass were among those who added their signatures to a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
Other leading figures included Dr Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams, Hopkins Homes executive chairman James Hopkins, restaurateur and hotelier Ruth Watson, Lady Caroline Cranbrook, Lord Marlesford, the Duke of Grafton, and several former MPs including Ben Gummer.
The Stop Sizewell C campaign co-ordinated the letter from the group of influencers – calling for the government to delay EDF Energy’s Development Consent Order (DCO) until after lockdown.
The group also highlighted their opposition to the project for a new £14billion twin nuclear reactor on the Suffolk coast, citing the harm it would do to tourism and other businesses, the landscape and wildlife in an area “prized for its beauty, tranquility and dark, star-filled, skies”.
Actor Bill Nighy, who used to live at Theberton and Eastbridge, said: “It is beyond belief that EDF is pressing forward during these terrible and uncertain times with a project so misguided, and which even the government’s own advisers find deeply concerning.
“If Sizewell C is allowed to go ahead, we will be left with an outdated form of energy that will not fit to any degree in our new world, and this internationally famous environment will be desecrated.
“This is a time to protect our ecosystems, not shatter them. It is also a time, I think everyone will agree, to finally listen to science rather than big business. If these times have nothing to recommend them, let us hope at least that our experience will inform our future in a positive way and allow us to avoid the blunders of the past.”
Andy Wood, CEO of Adnams, which employs at least 800 people through its brewery, hotels and 50 pubs, said Sizewell C would “significantly impact” his business.
He said: “I signed this letter because it has become increasingly evident to me that if there were not already two nuclear power stations at Sizewell, no-one would consider building something the size of Sizewell C here. Suffolk is poorly equipped to facilitate EDF’s delivery of this major project, lacking transport infrastructure and a significant local workforce with relevant skills.”
Former Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “When I was a Suffolk MP, EDF were at pains to say how they listened to the community, and acted. Submitting a Development Consent Order for Sizewell C – which will have significant local and national impacts – during this coronavirus crisis is not in keeping with that pledge.
“Our councils and government need to focus on keeping essential services running, and for local people – many of whom are very anxious about Sizewell C and would wish to be fully engaged – dealing with the DCO at a time when they are scared for themselves or vulnerable relatives, are dealing with sickness or even bereavement, or may have lost their jobs and have financial worries, will be extremely difficult and potentially an intolerable additional burden.”
A spokesman for EDF Energy said: “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. The Suffolk local authorities stated in a letter on 9 April (issued with a press release): ‘… we are supportive of you (EDF) submitting your application for the Development Consent Order (DCO) in the next few weeks and commencing the initial 28-day period for PINS to assess whether to accept your application’.
“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.”