Sizewell C facing delay because of coronavirus – planning submission postponed

PUBLISHED: 18:14 26 March 2020, by Richard Cornwell

Proposals for a new £14billion nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast are facing a delay because of the coronavirus.

EDF Energy says its planning application for the twin reactor is all ready to be submitted – but it has decided to postpone the submission by a “few weeks” because of the current crisis.

It has assured people that they will still be able to take part in the planning process for Sizewell C and the time for people to register will be extended.

Campaigners would have been furious if the application for a Development Consent Order had gone ahead as planned by the end of March with the current lockdown in place because of the virus and councils and community groups unable to meet due to the restrictions on movement and gatherings.

EDF was due to submit the DCO to the Planning Inspectorate by the end of March.

The company said this would now be put on hold for a few weeks, with more time for people to register as participants for the public examination phase of the DCO process to help to ensure local communities have enough time to review the application and participate.

EDF is liaising with the Planning Inspectorate to discuss how normal arrangements can be flexed so that communities are not disadvantaged by the current difficult circumstances.

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, EDF’s managing director of nuclear development, said: ‘‘We are ready to submit the application but we recognise that many people in Suffolk, including the local authorities, are adjusting to new circumstances created by the coronavirus crisis.

“We will defer the submission for a few weeks and once submitted we will extend the period for registration to make it easier for people to participate.

“During more than eight years of consultation we have worked hard to be transparent and to allow everyone who has an interest in the project to have their say. We will continue to do so in these difficult times.”

EDF says Sizewell C will help the UK stay in control of its energy transition by producing low-carbon, always-on electricity made in Britain. Replicating the Hinkley Point C design will allow for lower construction costs.

The company says the project will bring huge investment and job opportunities across Britain and especially to the Suffolk area.

It said: “It is important that the planning process moves forward so that if Sizewell C is approved it can play its part in helping the UK to recover once the coronavirus crisis is over.”

Campaigners though have a range of concerns, including the siting of a campus for workers and the routes and proposals – the latest suggestions including a potentially temporary link road from the A12 to the coast – to bring materials to the construction site.

There are also huge worries over the impact on tourism and wildlife for more than a decade while the enormous plant is built.

In a joint statement, leader of Suffolk County Council, Matthew Hicks and leader of East Suffolk Council, Steve Gallant said: “Both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council absolutely agree that this is the right decision for EDF Energy to take at this moment in time. We believe there is no other choice for them to take during such a difficult time for us all as we focus on fighting the effect of Covid-19 across Suffolk.

“Given the critical need for our communities to have the ability to fully engage with the consultation and decision making process that forms a valuable part of the Government’s formal Development Consent Order, we are relieved to hear EDF Energy has given due consideration to the timescales for making their submission and will delay for a number of weeks.

“We are now keen to understand what this means as we all currently expect to be living with the effects and restrictions surrounding Covid-19 for some time to come and we would not be happy to see anything done that restricts the community in taking an active part in the decision making process.

“We are keen to keep talking to EDF Energy about when it will be appropriate for all parties to see EDF Energy make their submission.”

A spokeswoman for Stop Sizewell C said: “We welcome EDF’s decision to defer submission of its application for a Development Consent Order for Sizewell C at this difficult time, but given the seriousness of this medical crisis and the significant national and local impacts of Sizewell C it would be unacceptable if there was only a short delay. We urge EDF to pause until such time as the Planning Inspectorate, Government’s Statutory Advisers, local authorities, parish and town councils, groups and concerned individuals are fully resourced and fully able to engage in what will be a mammoth process to assess what we consider to be the wrong project in the wrong place.”

Since 2012, more than 10,000 local residents and organisations have taken part in four stages of public consultation.

The application for a DCO will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and a final decision to grant a Development Consent Order will be taken by the Government.