This Parish Council does not believe that the Sizewell C development will have any benefits for the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and surrounding area. On the contrary, we believe that the current proposals in the stage 3 consultation and ten year plus construction period will have a profound impact on our environment, communities and way of life, without the benefit of any lasting legacy for future generations. However, if the development does eventually go ahead, we make the following detailed comments and suggestions which we urge EDF to absorb and adopt to help mitigate the adverse impacts which we list below:
Transport and related environmental issues are the primary concern of this Parish Council.
- Following the abandonment of the marine-led strategy, the consultation document appears to suggest that a road-led strategy is inevitable. We urge EDF to begin negotiations with network Rail as a matter of urgency to develop the rail-led strategy aimed at minimising HGV and other traffic on the local road network.
- We agree with Suffolk County Council that the traffic modelling prepared by EDF underestimates traffic flows on the A12, and that further mitigation measures are required for several potential pinch points caused by the potential increase in HGV and other Sizewell traffic. Measures for the junctions of the A144, The Street, the Park and Ride and A1120 with the A12 and impacts on adjoining property owners are of particular concern to this Council.
- We note that the capacity of the Park and Ride north of Darsham station has been increased from 1000 to 1200 spaces. Despite the proposal to construct an exit/entrance near Willow Marsh Lane with a new roundabout, we believe this will only add to traffic congestion on the section of the A12 from Blythburgh to Yoxford. Sizewell traffic joining the A12 from the A144 and A145, the Jet garage, proposed motel, Darsham station and level crossing plus a new roundabout at the junction of the B1122 and A12 in Yoxford, will all contribute to this congestion on an already busy single carriageway road.
- There are no proposals to prevent rat-running by LGVs and private cars on minor roads in and around our Parish. The Street is of particular concern, as is the B1125 from Blythburgh to Theberton through Westleton. This is likely to be a particularly acute problem during the first two years of the construction period before the Park and Ride and new relief road are fully operational.
- There is no pedestrian access shown from the Park and Ride to Darsham station, so any Sizewell personnel or visitors arriving by train will have to walk up the A12. Further, there are no legacy provisions in regard to improved car parking facilities at Darsham station; this is a seriously missed opportunity.
- The level crossing at Darsham Station is closed overnight and at weekends for routine maintenance at periodic intervals. A12 traffic is diverted down the Street and via Westleton, though some vehicles use Low Road as a short cut. At present traffic flows between 8pm and 6am are relatively light; however, If Sizewell C traffic runs for 24hours this will create unacceptable traffic movements and noise levels on these minor roads during level crossing closures. The same applies to the level crossing on the B1122 east of Yoxford during the first two years of construction before a relief road is constructed. This has not been considered by EDF. Sizewell traffic movements during overnight level crossing closures will have to be curtailed unless other diversionary routes can be identified.
- There are serious concerns about the impact of potential A12 traffic gridlock on public transport. Route 521 from Halesworth to Aldeburgh via Darsham uses the A144, A12 and the Street. It is a vital service for those without vehicular transport and it is questionable whether buses will be able to maintain a timetable given likely traffic congestion on this section of the A12.
- Darsham currently has a “dark sky” policy which is valued by local residents. Even proposed low-level lighting in the Park and Ride, combined with increased traffic flows at night, (the Park and Ride will operate for 24 hours) will compromise this policy.
- As well as light pollution, there are serious concerns about noise pollution during the construction period and from increased traffic movements; there is no reference in the consultation to the risk from NOx and diesel particulate pollution from 1000+ cars in the Park and Ride plus traffic congestion on the A12 itself.
- The construction period for Sizewell C is estimated at 10 – 12 years. Given the problems experienced by EDF at Flamanville in France and Olkuloto in Finland, this could be considered an optimistic estimate. We believe the combination of traffic congestion, light, noise and air pollution will seriously impact the quality of life of the residents of Darsham and surrounding area for more than 10 years; we would like to know how EDF propose to mitigate for these impacts and/or compensate residents both here and in surrounding affected Parishes.
Wider Transport impacts
- EDF state that 85% of HGV traffic bound for Sizewell will come from the South. There are serious concerns about the structural capacity of the Orwell Bridge, and the impact of closures during high winds. Closures create mayhem on the road system in Ipswich and surrounding areas.
- There is likely to be serious congestion at the roundabouts on the A12 around Woodbridge and Suffolk CC (as the roads authority) has stated that mitigation proposals will be required here.
- We welcome the EDF proposal to construct a two-village by-pass on the A12 around Stratford St Mary and Farnham. We would urge The Dept. of Transport and Suffolk County Council to partner a four-village by-pass, although this will simply transfer traffic congestion on to the single track section of the A12 north of Saxmundham. The EDF proposal for a new relief road leaving the A12 at a roundabout south of Yoxford, by-passing the villages of Middleton Moor and Theberton, is at least an admission that a relief road is required, but there is little support for this route from Suffolk CC and any of the affected villages, on the basis that it does not go direct to Sizewell and has no legacy value.
- EDF have refused to consider adoption of the W (D2) relief road leaving the A12 at Benhall direct to Sizewell, that we and other parishes proposed at stage 2. This would solve the problem of congestion between Saxmundham and Yoxford, and provide a lasting legacy for the area. Suffolk CC has urged EDF to re-consider this route, and we and other local Parishes strongly support this recommendation.
- Scottish Power is proposing to build a new substation at Friston as the grid connection to the new generation of wind farms being constructed off the Suffolk Coast. This is a separate planning application which contains no traffic modelling. Adoption of the W relief route could also service this development. In the interests of minimising traffic impacts on local communities we urge some urgent joined-up thinking between EDF and Scottish Power.
Wider social and community impacts
- Despite considerable local opposition, EDF are persisting with plans to locate a 2,400 worker encampment at Eastbridge. Suggestions from the County, District and Parish Councils at stage 2 for alternative sites and the creation of a legacy of affordable housing in neighbouring towns (as is the case at Hinckley Point) have been ignored by EDF. There is no information on provision of services (water supply), to what is effectively a new town. Along with these other respondents we urge EDF to re-consider the proposal to locate the worker campus at Eastbridge.
- The presence of a total workforce of some 7,000 in the Leiston area will have considerable social and economic impacts on local services, schools, policing, NHS and the housing market. Many of these services are already under considerable strain.
- EDF will build an in-house medical facility, but have stated they will rely on NHS services in an emergency. This area of Suffolk aleady has one of the longest ambulance response times in the County, which are likely to be extended by traffic congestion. There does not appear to be any emergency planning or viable contingency plan, for example evacuation procedures, in the event of a major incident.
- At Hinckley Point, rents in that sector of the housing market have increased by 18%. Any similar increase would have a dramatic impact on the rental sector in this area, and many local residents will be priced out of the market. It is also likely that many second and holiday homes will be rented out to Sizewell workers; where these properties have multiple occupants, fly-parking on local roads will become an additional nuisance. Removing properties from the tourism sector will adversely affect the whole sector (see below). Demand on local trades people from the Sizewell project will also drive up their cost and make it extremely difficult for local residents to get construction, maintenance and repairs carried out.
Environment and Tourism
- Apart from the impact of noise, light and vehicle emission pollution, there are concerns about the impact of climate change, sea level rise and surface water flooding over the 60 year life of the project. There are specific concerns about the impact on RSPB Minsmere, an internationally important nature conservation site, as well as impacts on Sizewell Marshes, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. These concerns are spelt out in detail in the County Council response.
- There are also concerns about the visual impact of the site, particularly the need for new pylons, not mentioned at stage 2. The height of these pylons has not been specified. The height of spoil heaps necessary during the construction phase are also of concern, though, viewed from Dunwich Heath, the major visual impact will be created by the huge 32ha operational site as a whole. The impact of all this on visitor numbers to Minsmere and Dunwich Heath are very difficult to quantify.
- There are further concerns about the wider impact on tourism throughout the AONB. EDF state that the development will create a one-off £100m investment boost to the Suffolk economy. Our research shows that the annual income from the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB is worth £210m and employs 6,000 people (source: Destination Research on behalf of AONBs 2018).
- Suffolk County Council have stated that to have their support, the benefits of the Sizewell C development to Suffolk as a whole must outweigh the detrimental impacts. The negative impacts of the Sizewell C proposals on tourism are difficult to estimate, and the size of their proposed tourism fund has yet to be quantified; however, bearing in mind all the other negative impacts of this proposal on the environment and local communities spelt out in this response, Darsham Parish Council has no doubt that EDF's current proposals for Sizewell C in the stage 3 consultation will have no positive benefits whatsoever either for this Parish or for the Suffolk Coast AONB as a whole.
Darsham Parish Council 12th March 2019