‘People deserve to see the reality’: Do Sizewell C images capture true impact on beauty spot?
PUBLISHED: 09:55 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:35 17 September 2020
Calls are being made for the developers of Sizewell C to publish enhanced ‘true-to-life’ images of what the project will look like during its 10-year construction as fears escalate over its impact on surrounding beauty spots.
The £20bn twin-reactor will be built in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Suffolk coast over the next decade if proposals by EDF are approved.
On Friday Suffolk County Council dealt the project a significant blow and said it could not support it in its current form.
Among a raft of concerns was the visual impact of the plant, which leaders fear will have “significant adverse effects” on the landscape during and after construction.
They claim the function of the protected nature area around the plant, to “conserve and enhance” natural beauty, would be put at risk, and also have concerns over plans for four additional tall pylons on site.
EDF has prepared several images of what Sizewell C could look like both during construction and when it is operating, with some featuring outlines on existing photographs to show anticipated and ‘exceptional’ scenarios.
The company said “true-to-life images of how the station will look have been presented at all stages”, adding that bespoke 3D modelling helped to educate around 10,000 people in east Suffolk on what they would see from their homes “at any point, during construction and operation”.
But organisations working to preserve the area of natural beauty (AONB) are calling for the French energy company to release fresh illustrations.
Nick Collinson of the National Trust said it is concerned the construction work, as indicated in the project’s landscape and visual assessment, will have a “major adverse and permanent impact” on the views from Dunwich Heath.
They have requested more detailed images from EDF, but note the current ones comply with minimum requirements.
“We are disappointed that images that would allow people to fully understand and appreciate the visual impacts over the 10-year construction phase in any meaningful way have not been made available,” he added.
Councillor David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB partnership, said: “Experience of other new nuclear power stations suggests that hundreds of cranes will be required for the build, this would undoubtedly have a significant negative impact on the natural beauty of nationally designated landscape. The AONB would welcome more representative imagery for the construction and decommissioning phases.”
Campaigners at Stop Sizewell C have drawn comparisons between EDF’s visualisations and ones prepared following pressure from Anglesey County Council for the Wylfa Newydd plant.
Developers Horizon were tasked with producing more ‘true-to-life’ images after council chiefs felt the original visualisations failed to accurately depict the anticipated visual impact. Hitachi, the firm behind it, has just announced it is pulling out of the £13bn project.
“Given EDF’s claim to be a good neighbour, it’s a big fail not to show local people what it would be like living next to the biggest construction site in Europe, should Sizewell C go ahead,” said Alison Downes, on behalf of the group.
EDF says good practice guidance is not specific a
bout how any development or its construction phase should be visualised, and said the images were produced in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
The highest point on each of the images (C1) is meant to show the maximum height reached by temporary buildings and tower/mobile cranes used to construct the main platform.
In the case of the view from RSPB Minsmere, the expected height is earmarked at 160m above ground but if it is ‘exceptional’, it could be as high as 250m. Other lower-level outlines are meant to suggest heights of workshops and storage facilities, plus accommodation blocks.
During construction, EDF plans to roll out mitigation measures such as minimum lighting and remodelling the northern mound to screen lower-level infrastructure from beach views.
EDF said landscape and visual effects during Sizewell C’s operation stage have been assessed as “not significant”, stating they would only occur over localised sections of the AONB and Heritage Coast.
But this has been dismissed by East Suffolk Council chiefs in their draft representation to the planning inspector as a “highly dubious and unsatisfactory conclusion”.
Council bosses do, however, acknowledge that once construction ceases the landscape used for it will begin to recover.
Within the Sizewell C documents, visualisations of what the plant may look like when finished are also included, and CGI videos have also been produced. Stop Sizewell C claims these are “simplistic”.
An EDF spokeswoman added: “We have been open and transparent as the plans for Sizewell C have developed and have taken on board feedback during the four stages of public consultation that spanned eight years.
“The feedback we had from the many public exhibitions we held was that the 3D model helped people understand likely visual impact of the project.”