Published: February 7, 2013
New storm over Hinkley plans as Burnham councillors grill EDF boss

Fresh concerns have been raised this week over the impact that the proposed expansion of Hinkley Point power station will have on the Burnham-On-Sea area.

Town councillors raised fears about the impact on tourism, pollution, traffic and health when EDF Energy's David Eccles (pictured right) visited Burnham this week.

The visit was organised to allow EDF to explain what funding could be available to mitigate the impact of the development in our area.

But councillor Bill Hancock told the meeting: "Burnham and Highbridge are the most vulnerable towns in Somerset when it comes to this project. We stand to be affected the most because we're directly downwind of Hinkley, yet we seem to be the poor relation because most funding is going to Bridgwater and we are being overlooked."

But Mr Eccles assured councillors this is not the case. "The communities that area most affected by our development will benefit from community funds - money will be available."

Fresh transport concerns were also raised, with Cllr Neville Jones saying: "There is still a lot of concern in Highbridge that large construction lorries will be travelling through the town during the many years of development. What assurances can EDF give us that this will not happen?"

Mr Eccles would not give any guarantees, but said: "Our traffic management plan will request all lorries use the M5 when travelling through the area, avoiding the most congested times, but in the event of a major incident on the motorway our back-up will be to use major routes such as A-roads and to shut off the supply of lorries."

Mayor Ken Smout added his concerns about the impact that Hinkley C could have on local tourism.

"Our key business here in Burnham is tourism - and the adverse impact of this development could be felt for many years while building is underway," he said. "What will be done to help our tourism trade?"

Mr Eccles responded: "Sums of money will be available to mitigate the effects on tourism." He drew surprised reactions when he added: "Having a new nuclear plant could actually help increase local tourism."

Cllr Paul Young raised his concerns about the environmental impact to Burnham's local beaches, especially as 80 per cent of aggregates for the Hinkley construction will arrive by ships using the Bristol Channel. "We have large areas of beaches that could be affected from washed-up debris," he warned.

Although Mr Eccles said there are "no plans for beach cleaning", he assured councillors that EDF's contractors would be expected to adhere to the "highest standards" of cleanliness.

Cllr Louise Parkin also quizzed EDF on what the firm would do in the event of an emergency. "If there were a disaster, is a preparedness plan in place to ensure there would be no impact on Burnham's tourism trade?" she asked.

Mr Eccles said: "Those plans are not in place but our contractors have not yet been appointed. This will be an important part of their bids."

And Cllr Chris Williams added: "A large number of transient workers will come into the Burnham area to commute to Hinkley Point, potentially stretching our infrastructure and other services." He asked whether extra funding would be available for extra health and school facilities.

Mr Eccles said it would: "A sum of money has been allocated for health provision and education services. Those impacts are definitely accounted for."

Cllr Phil Harvey asked whether groups in Burnham and Highbridge would benefit from the millions of pounds of community funding that EDF is setting aside. Mr Eccles said they could: "The funds will be split two ways - £7.9m for the site preparation work and £12.8m for the communities most affected by our development, with the money being distributed on our behalf by Somerset Community Foundation."

Cllr Helen Groves asked whether this week's decision by Centrica, a key Hinkley financial backer, to pull out of the project would have any impact. Mr Eccles indicated it would not: "We respect Centrica's decision to pull out, but we are still confident that we will get the financial backing."

Meanwhile, he said a planning decision from the Secretary of State is anticipated to be made in the coming weeks to allow the poject to move forward.

Pictured: Hinkley Point, as seen from Burnham and David Eccles with Darren Smith of Kier BAM, the consortium working on site preparation; town councillors, and, above, an image of how the new Hinkley C will look


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