storm over Hinkley plans as Burnham councillors grill EDF boss
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
councillors raised fears about the impact on tourism, pollution,
traffic and health when EDF Energy's David Eccles (pictured right)
visited Burnham this week.
visit was organised to allow EDF to explain what funding could
be available to mitigate the impact of the development in our
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."
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?"
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
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."
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.
Eccles said: "Those plans are not in place but our contractors
have not yet been appointed. This will be an important part of
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
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."
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."
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.
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