Dr Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams Southwold, argues that building the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station will not create ‘boom times’ for Suffolk and there are better and cheaper ways to create new jobs.
Suffolk Community Foundation’s latest report on our county’s Hidden Needs makes for some heart-breaking reading.
Whether it is somebody in an isolated village with no transport or a young person from a family where multi-generational unemployment is the norm, or someone old and lonely, this report highlights that targeted and often complex solutions are called for.
It reminds us that spending money to create long-term new jobs may be good for the economy but will not necessarily benefit everyone and not necessarily those that have been left behind. We should be wary of suggestions that the “boom times” are just around the corner because of a major construction project such as the proposed new nuclear power station at Sizewell.
Leiston, host to Sizewell A and B, was described by Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership in this newspaper earlier this month as “a significantly deprived population with higher levels of childhood obesity, tooth decay and smoking [with] little social mobility.”
If it ever found the funding, and overcame numerous objections locally and nationally, Sizewell C should create 900 new long-term jobs according to EDF, at a total cost of £20 billion. That’s over £22 million per new job. A fraction of this sum invested in the sort of solutions required to alleviate Suffolk’s hidden needs would have a much bigger impact and leave plenty of change to create new long-term careers in sectors which are much more suited to this county’s significant strengths, such as in tourism, offshore wind and IT to name a few.
Whilst we were told in the Prime Minister’s 10-Point Plan that the government was supportive of large nuclear projects, this is not unconditional. Tucked away in background materials is the phrase “subject to value for money”. That is key to my own and others’ opposition to Sizewell C.
Sizewell C would be the biggest construction site in Europe, adding 12,000 vehicles each day to the A12. EDF has made no secret of its need to save money and reduce the significant risks of a complicated build by using the Hinkley Point supply chain and workforce. 6,000 relocated workers will need accommodation, pushing up rents and house prices for local people, especially those in lower cost housing. Many of the remaining workers are expected to travel from 90 minutes away – not exactly local and well outside the county.
EDF admits many hundreds would be displaced from existing employers, causing recruitment problems. Meanwhile, independent studies found that up to £40 million would be lost to our valuable tourism industry each year of construction. With a build time in excess of a decade when its technology is highly likely to have been superseded, is this really worth the risk to Suffolk and its communities?
It would be wrong to object to Sizewell C without either evidence of its impacts or offer alternative solutions. Of course, our young people deserve training and the opportunity of a rewarding career, but Sizewell C is not the only option. This part of Suffolk needs more well-paid, long term jobs which work with the grain of the existing economy rather than threatening it.
Both public and private sector leaders need to come together to celebrate the area’s many strengths and help it to remove remaining barriers so that it becomes the best place to start a new business. Small and medium-sized businesses create most of the new, long term employment opportunities in our area and there is huge potential for these to expand and grow. Many exploit ideas and technologies which do not depend on being in cities to succeed and Suffolk, with all its amenities, has much to offer.
Local estate agents have reported a tide of interest from city dwellers who already realise this and want to bring their own business ideas to less-congested counties like Suffolk.
There are significant opportunities linked to our green recovery. Investment in offshore wind, responsibly delivered to shore, is going to bring us much cheaper energy and many more jobs in the medium and long term than the eye-wateringly expensive Sizewell C.
The green think tank e3g has calculated that labour intensive tasks like insulating homes can cut CO2 emissions and create jobs at a fraction of the cost of Sizewell C.
Despite EDF’s many years and millions of pounds spent persuading us that Sizewell C will be good for Suffolk, more and more of us are realising that the opposite is true.
We have no issue with the existing Sizewell B, but it is time we fought back against a proposal which will damage existing jobs and could ruin the place upon which so many of our livelihoods are founded. It is not too late to stop Sizewell C.