Around 600 extra caravan bed spaces are needed across the Sedgemoor area to accommodate Hinkley Point C workers, a new report has warned this week, amid concern that the high demand is reducing local housing availability.

Local accommodation “remains unlikely to be sufficient to meet current and future increased demand,” cautions Sedgemoor planning officer Stuart Houlet in a new report to the council’s Development Control Committee.

He adds that “demand for caravan bed spaces will continue to be significant,” and warns that “there is a need to proactively influence accommodation options in order to protect the local housing market.”

The report says that the high demand could “affect the ability of those on low incomes to access the private rented sector and affordable housing.”

The comments come as district councillors consider changes to their ‘Operational Guidance for Hinkley Point C Construction Workforce Accommodation Strategy’.

The reports states: “The EDF Energy Accommodation Strategy was originally published in 2011 and a number of the assumptions that it was based on can be questioned given the timelag in the implementation of the project. The expectation, given some initial delays to the project, is that peak workforce could be in excess of the 5600 workers originally predicted. This is still considered likely.”

“In addition to overall numbers, in terms of demands for accommodation locally, given the high employment of the area, it is now likely that there will be a higher proportion of non-homebased workers on the project and hence a need to accommodate more than previously predicted.”

“Spare capacity assumptions in respect of private rented sector accommodation are considered not to reflect the current position in respect of the high occupation of this sector.”

“Furthermore assumptions of the use of tourism accommodation off-peak/off-season included within the Accommodation Strategy do not necessarily reflect the all year round requirement of worker bed spaces.”

“This raised concerns regarding whether simply allowing off-peak occupation of tourist accommodation by Hinkley workers in itself would be workable, which the current Guidance sought to address.”

“Alongside the concerns regarding the capacity of local accommodation opportunities to respond to the impacts of the project was the timing of the delivery of the campus accommodation. Bridgwater A Campus (BRIA) bed spaces only fully became available in 2019.”

“With the delivery and planned awaited hotel bed spaces and other accommodation measures, accommodation locally remains unlikely to be sufficient to meet current and future increased demand and the active use of approved caravan sites to house Hinkley workers has been beneficial.”

The report adds: “During the next phase of work which involves construction workers, it is expected that the demand for caravan bed spaces will continue to be significant.”

“As a consequence there is a need to work with all parties to proactively influence accommodation options in order to protect the local housing market and manage matters, including from an enforcement perspective.”

“A key concern remains that unless sufficient accommodation is made and remains available there will be displacement effects within the housing market, potentially affecting the ability of those on low incomes to access the private rented sector and affordable housing.”

Sedgemoor District Council previously agreed that a ‘minimal intervention approach’ to let the market dictate where workers live was not desirable and that some form of operational guidance, for a managed approach, was the appropriate course of action. 

“The original operational guidance sought a managed approach specifically in respect of tourism accommodation to ensure a strategy was in place that considered the opportunity of providing sufficient and suitable accommodation for Hinkley Point C workers through a plan, monitor, and manage approach. This remains the case.”

“Despite the increase on campus and hotel accommodation since members last considered the Guidance, project delays mean worker numbers are yet to peak and there is still an anticipated demand for circa 600 caravan bed spaces.”

He concludes: “It is important that the Council continues to respond positively in seeking to address supply issues in order to protect the operation of the local housing market and the local community.”

“To this end, the operational guidance sets out the circumstances for considering the renewal for a further three years of temporary use of appropriate tourism accommodation by construction workers in association with Hinkley Point C.”