Levelling Up

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

15 February 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 – which was updated in February 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 January 2021, aggregating the results produced a ranking in which the Moorside site [2] demonstrated the greatest potential for ‘levelling up”, followed by Hartlepool, 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 have projects in active development, at Sizewell C and Bradwell. Horizon’s Wylfa project has been cancelled. 
  4. Malfunctioning safety valves at the decade-late EPR new build in Olkiluoto, Finland could have implications for the only functioning EPRs anywhere in the world, at Taishan in China. The Flamanville EPR build is also a decade late and Hinkley Point C is overspent and at risk of delays. https://www.montelnews.com/en/story/safety-valve-checks-wont-delay-flamanville-start-up-edf/1120254.
  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

In 2010 eight locations were selected by the UK Government as being potentially suitable for the development of new nuclear power stations. The purpose of this paper is to assess each of the shortlisted locations and identify the ones where a decision to build and operate a new power station has the greatest potential to make a contribution towards ‘levelling up’ local  areas that are relatively disadvantaged in terms of economic and labour market performance.

The approach taken involves the use of 12 indicators of socio-economic performance using regularly updated data available at a local authority level from the Office for National Statistics. The indicators cover 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 chosen are as follows:

· Proportion of the population of working age · Average annual rate of job growth since 2001
· Trend in working age population since · 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

 The reasons these criteria were chosen includes the following:

  • they are widely used indicators of comparative economic and demographic competitiveness and performance
  • they are available for all local authorities in Great Britain
  • the datasets are updated regularly but also are available for the last 20 years or so, meaning that while they provide a good indication of current levels of performance it is also possible to obtain insights into cyclical and long-term trends.

An overall assessment of rankings by location can be obtained by aggregating the ranking for each individual indicator and generating an overall average score across all indicators. 

An update in January 2021 used more recent data for nearly all the same set of indicators as listed above where new data was available. The only datasets that had not yet been updated were those pertaining to Job density and average annual rate of total job growth (i.e., two indicators of the original set of 12). 

However, for one indicator a change had to be made. The ONS is no longer updating the GVA per capita data series for individual local authorities. Instead, a similar ONS dataset was used i.e., the average value of GVA per filled job located in each local authority area. This indicator also has the advantage of better reflecting the average productivity of the deployed workforce in each local authority area, plus it also has the advantage of being available for a more recent year (2018). 

Overall rankings: 2021 analysis

Site Local authority area Average score Ranking
Moorside Copeland 3.17 1
Hartlepool Hartlepool 3.42 2
Wylfa Anglesey 3.58 3
Heysham Lancaster 4.00 4
Bradwell Maldon 4.92 5
Sizewell East Suffolk 5.33 6
Hinkley Point* Somerset W & Taunton 5.42 7
Oldbury South Gloucestershire 5.67 8

(*Hinkley Point is under development)

The conclusion of the updated assessment is that the location that would benefit most from an investment decision is Moorside in Copeland (Cumbria), followed by Hartlepool and Wylfa on Anglesey.

On the other hand, East Suffolk occupies the third lowest of the ranking positions with only Somerset West & Taunton (a site already under developments) and South Gloucestershire possessing a lower aggregate score.

This revised assessment reflects the most up-to-date data available as of January 2021. The intention is to update this assessment on an annual basis using the most recent data available.