National Planning Policy
The National Policy Statement (NPS) for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6) (further information here) was published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in July 2011 and sets out the national planning policy for the provision of new nuclear power stations in England and Wales. As part of the production of the NPS the Government undertook a Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) to identify sites that are potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations. An area to the north of Sizewell B nuclear power station (referred to as Sizewell C) was nominated as a location for a new station as part of this process. This location was subsequently accepted by the Government and is one of eight sites considered potentially suitable for a new nuclear power station in the NPS.
In order to progress the construction of a new nuclear power station at Sizewell the developer will require the consent of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. To obtain this they are required to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO), an application for a DCO must be made to the Planning Inspectorate (PINs). Any application will be assessed by a team of independent planning inspectors via the major infrastructure planning process; PINs will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will make the final decision on the DCO.
The NPS identifies Sizewell C as a potentially suitable site for a new nuclear power station. The onus is therefore on the developer to demonstrate that the site is suitable through the DCO process. More information on the detail of the DCO process is available from PINs.
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) Evidence Plan
An Evidence Plan is a mechanism to agree up front what technical information an applicant for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) needs to provide to assess impacts on sites of European nature conservation importance. DEFRA encourage applicants to take this approach, however it is a voluntary, non-statutory process. EDF Energy are undertaking this process as part of their proposal to build a new nuclear power station at Sizewell (Sizewell C), this is the first time that an applicant for a terrestrial NSIP project has taken this approach.
On Friday 31st October 2014 the HRA Evidence Plan report was published on the Planning Inspectorate’s website. More information on the detail of this process is available on EDF Energy’s website (http://sizewell.edfenergyconsultation.info/) and the Planning Inspectorate’s website (here).
The HRA Evidence Plan process only considers effects on sites designated as of European nature conservation importance (Special Protection Areas; Special Areas of Conservation and Ramsar Sites). Impacts on all other ecological receptors (such as nationally designated sites; locally designated sites; protected species and Priority species) will be considered through the Environmental Impact Assessment process which is also being undertaken.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust is involved in the HRA Evidence Plan process as a technical consultee. We have entered in to this process to seek to ensure that our expertise is fully utilised so that all potential effects on European sites are identified and robustly assessed. The published Evidence Plan report forms a technical part of the overall Habitats Regulations Assessment process. It is not a decision making document but does provide the framework for how effects on European designated sites will be assessed.
Aldhurst Farm Habitat Creation Scheme
EDF Energy have created approximately 6Ha of wetland habitat and approximately 60Ha of dry habitat on arable land at Aldhurst Farm, which is adjacent to the western boundary of the Sizewell Estate. Prior to the submission of the application Suffolk Wildlife Trust (and a variety of other statutory and non-statutory stakeholders) had discussions with EDF Energy on the technical nature of this proposal.
It is EDF Energy’s intention that this new habitat will eventually form part of the compensation package for the Sizewell C project. However, as there are currently no formal proposals for Sizewell C available (as no DCO has been submitted), the habitat creation planning application must be responded to and determined based on the relevant material considerations. At the DCO examination stage the Secretary of State will determine to what extent the Aldhurst Farm scheme provides adequate compensation (if any) for the likely impacts of the SZC development.
We have made comments to Suffolk Coastal DC on technical elements of the application, these can be viewed here. The comments we have made do not compromise our current or future position on the Sizewell C development and we will continue to oppose any proposals which would cause unacceptable ecological damage.