Levelling Up

Updated Development Economics Report reveals almost all nuclear sites have higher “levelling up” potential than East Suffolk

12 November 2021. An independent report by Development Economics [1] shows that five out of the government’s seven remaining potential sites for new nuclear power projects would be likely to benefit more in “levelling up” terms than East Suffolk, where EDF is proposing to build Sizewell C. 

The New Nuclear Location Benchmarking report – updated for the second time in November 2021 – was commissioned by Stop Sizewell C in order to better understand EDF’s claim that the construction of Sizewell C is key to Suffolk’s economic recovery. The ability of a large infrastructure project to contribute positively to the area that hosts it depends on a number of variables, such as:

  • the ability to provide a local workforce without the need for extended commuting from other population centres;
  • the size and structure of the local business base; and
  • the presence of industries that could be either positively or adversely affected by the construction and/or operation of the proposed infrastructure project.

In 2020, Development Economics independently selected 12 indicators of socio-economic performance, including demographic characteristics and change, availability of jobs, labour market activity, workforce characteristics, structure of the employment base, earnings, annual contributions to wealth generation and levels of new business formation, and assessed data for eight local authorities. Updating the report in November 2021, aggregating the results produced a ranking in which the Hartlepool site demonstrated the greatest potential for ‘levelling up”, followed by Moorside, [2] Wylfa, Heysham and Bradwell with only Oldbury in Gloucestershire below Sizewell. Hinkley Point, which is already under development, was in 7th place.

Alison Downes of Stop Sizewell C said: “Whilst we have fundamental and legitimate questions about whether Sizewell C is in fact needed, we wanted to see how East Suffolk compares with other sites in terms of addressing the government’s “levelling up” agenda, and the answer is clear: East Suffolk is just off the bottom of the list of available sites. If government is determined to pursue further nuclear mega-projects, it should abandon the current developer-led approach – which is totally unstrategic and has left us with the only active projects being by overseas state-backed developers [3] using expensive, unproven technology [4] on environmentally unsuitable [5] sites – in favour of a pro-active levelling up approach.”

“We contend that the economic benefits for Suffolk will be limited by EDF’s intended use of the Hinkley supply chain, Suffolk’s low unemployment and lower level of appropriate skills. EDF’s expectation that almost 6,000 Sizewell C workers will require local accommodation and still more are assumed to travel 90 minutes each way [6] proves that local people won’t take the majority of jobs available, and certainly not the higher-skilled roles. Indeed, according to EDF’s Sizewell C application documents, only 7-8% of jobs in the Professional and Management sector [7] would go to people within the 90-minute commuter zone. Meanwhile, displacement of workers from existing businesses, traffic congestion and the huge scale of the construction will damage Suffolk’s resilient SME-based local economy, especially in tourism at a time when there is huge potential for that to grow.”


  1. https://developmenteconomics.co.uk/
  2. EDF has declared an interest in the Moorside site in Cumbria https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/sizewell-c/news-views/edf-joins-major-companies-unions-to-promote-moorside-clean-energy-hub
  3. Only French utility EDF and its partner China General Nuclear (CGN)  have a project in active development, at Sizewell C. CGN’s Bradwell project is “paused” and Horizon’s Wylfa project cancelled. 
  4. Taishan I in China is offline due to fuel failure after only three years of commercial operation, and the ONR is mindful of the implications for Hinkley C and Sizewell C. Taishans I & II are the only completed EPRs anywhere in the world. Malfunctioning safety valves at the decade-late EPR new build in Olkiluoto, Finland could also have implications. The Flamanville EPR build is  a decade late and Hinkley Point C is overspent and at risk of delays. 
  5. The SZC site is recognised in the National Policy Statement as having significant environmental sensitivity, similar to Bradwell.
  6. See Stop Sizewell C’s critique of EDF’s Economic Statement. https://stopsizewellc.org/economic-impacts/
  7. Ibid. At peak, EDF expects only 150 (7%) of 1,740 jobs in Professional & Management to be filled by “home-based” workers, ie living within a 90-minute commute of Sizewell C.

Report Summary:

The full report is online here


Development Economics Ltd has carried out a number of assessments since June 2020 of the comparative economic performance of eight locations that have been selected by the UK Government in October 2010 as being potentially suitable for the development of new nuclear power stations.

12 wide-ranging indicators of socio-economic performance of candidate host areas were selected based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) data sets. These indicators covered aspects such as demographic characteristics and change, availability of jobs, labour market activity, workforce characteristics, structure of the employment base, earnings, annual contributions to wealth generation and levels of new business formation.

The specific criteria originally selected were as follows:

  • Proportion of the population of working age

  • Average annual rate of job growth

  • Trend in working age population

  • Business start-up rate per capita

  • Employment rate

  • Proportion of employment in Construction

  • Spare capacity in local labour force

  • Proportion of employment in the Hospitality sector

  • Proportion of workforce in relevant occupations

  • Full time earnings of residents

  • Job density

  • Gross Value Added per capita

These criteria are widely used, regularly updated, and are readily available for GB local authority areas from the ONS. An overall assessment of rankings by location was then obtained by aggregating the ranking for each individual indicator and generating an overall average score across all indicators.

In two subsequent updates, the GVA per capita data series for individual local authorities was – which ONS was no longer updating – was replaced by a dataset of the average value of GVA per filled job located in each local authority area.  This replacement indicator had the advantage of better reflecting the average productivity of the deployed workforce in each local authority area, plus it also had the advantage of being available for a more recent year (2018).

The latest update of the assessment was conducted by Development Economics in November 2021. Revised data was available for all 12 indicators compared to June 2020; Hartlepool is found to be the most advantageous location from a ‘levelling up’ perspective, with Oldbury (South Gloucestershire) as the least favourable location.

Overall rankings: November 2021


Local authority area

Average score























East Suffolk



Hinkley Point

Somerset W & Taunton




South Gloucestershire