Environmental impact inquiry at new nuclear plant

The environmental impact of a new nuclear power station will be the subject of a new planning inquiry.

Around 11,000 people are currently working at the Hinkley Point C construction site in Somerset, with this number expected to rise to 12,000 in the coming months.

EDF Energy secured planning consent for the power station back in 2013 and construction began three years later.

The planning permission required EDF to invest in a number of measures to offset the environmental impact of the new facility.

The company is now seeking to make a number of changes to the agreed measures, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Any changes will require the approval of the Planning Inspectorate - resulting in a new public inquiry where residents can have their say.

The new iniquiry was confirmed in a recent report by Councillor Ros Wyke, Somerset Council's portfolio holder for economic development, planning and assets.

She said changes proposed by EDF are "likely to result in a public examination" which would begin by the autumn of 2025.

EDF held an initial round of public consultation in January and February over its proposals for new saltmarshes on the Pawlett Hams.

The plans will see the creation of more than 800 acres of saltmarsh, providing near habitats for fish and animals, improving water quality and reducing flood risks.

Hinkley Point C said the new saltmarsh would be a natural alternative to installing an alternative acoustic fish deterrent.

The proposals will be in addition to other measures in the Bristol Channel to offset the power station's impact, including planting seagrass and kelp, developing native oyster beds and removing weirs on three rivers to help fish reach breeding grounds.

Councillor Leigh Redman, who is standing for Labour in the new Bridgwater constituency, said that he had serious concerns about the saltmarshes proposal.

And Councillor Claire Sully – who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in the same constituency – has been fighting against the new saltmarshes as part of the Save Pawlett Hams campaign.

Ms Sully claimed that the new nature reserve would cost up to £50m to deliver, arguing that the acoustic fish deterrent was "essential" to preventing damage on the Severn Estuary.

The Planning Inspectorate will confirm the precise dates of the public inquiry once EDF has formally submitted its plans.

The power station is currently expected to be operational by 2031, following by EDF's announcement in January 2023 that it would not meet its then-target date of 2027.

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