The Times: New Sizewell C nuclear power station poses threat to rare birds, says National Trust

A new nuclear power station planned for the Suffolk coast would threaten rare wildlife on protected heathland, according to the National Trust.

It has condemned EDF’s application, expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate tomorrow, to build twin reactors at Sizewell in a project that the French state-controlled company says would supply enough low carbon electricity for six million homes, or 7 per cent of UK power.

The trust owns Dunwich Heath, 140 acres of lowland heathland that is one of Britain’s rarest habitats and is home to a breeding population of endangered stone curlews.

It has written to the leaders of East Suffolk council and Suffolk county council to raise concerns about the proposed £18 billion plant, which EDF would build with theChinese nuclear power company China General Nuclear (CGN).

Nick Collinson, the trust’s general manager for the Suffolk and Essex Coast, wrote: “The National Trust is deeply concerned about the current proposals for Sizewell C and the impact they could have on the wildlife, views and visitor experience of Dunwich Heath, and this irreplaceable stretch of the Suffolk coast.”

Mr Collinson expressed concern that EDF was going ahead with the application during the coronavirus lockdown, when organisations that wanted to respond and raise specific concerns had limited capacity to do so.

He added: “We are concerned that EDF has failed to provide important information on key topic areas. The absence of information has prevented the National Trust, and other stakeholders, from being able to fully consider both the short and long-term impacts of the proposal on our property and the experience that we can offer our visitors and members.

“It has also hindered us in being able to give meaningful consideration to any appropriate monitoring, mitigation or compensation.”

The trust’s concerns include the impact of dust and traffic from the construction of the power station and the visual blight caused by pylons and power lines. It also fears that the development could displace recreational activity from Sizewell to Dunwich Heath, which is about 3km (less than two miles) north of the proposed power station site.

Stop Sizewell C, a local campaign group, said the power stations “would be an expensive bridge to nowhere: it will suck vital funds away from the technologies and projects that are more capable of truly transforming our energy landscape”.

Last month a group of celebrities with homes in the area or links to it, including the actors Bill Nighy and David Morrissey and the painter Maggi Hambling, called on the government to step in to delay consideration of the proposal until the coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

Mr Nighy, who used to live in Theberton with his former partner, the actress Diana Quick, 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.”

The new station would be next to Sizewell B, Britain’s most modern nuclear power station, which opened in 1995.

EDF and CGN are building the £22 billion Hinkley Point C in Somerset, the first new nuclear power station for a generation. It has been repeatedly delayed.

EDF has proposed an alternative funding model for Sizewell C under which consumers would share the risk of cost overruns and delays by paying for the project while it was still under construction. EDF said the alternative funding model could make nuclear power comparable in cost to offshore wind.

A full public examination of the application is expected in the autumn.