A coalition of actors, broadcasters and entrepreneurs is warning that building work to replace Sizewell nuclear power station will “lay waste” to swathes of Suffolk’s most idyllic landscape.
Bill Turnbull, the broadcaster; actors Bill Nighy and Diana Quick; the novelist Esther Freud and renowned sculptor Maggi Hambling are among those voicing their opposition to the movement of tons of construction materials and waste to and from the site.
They say the plans could mean 1,500 lorries a day thundering through the quiet Suffolk countryside, with construction work disrupting the lives of residents and carving up farms and communities for years to come.
The energy giant EDF Energy, which runs the Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations, is currently completing a public consultation exercise on plans to build a new replacement plant, Sizewell C, before submitting an application for development consent, with building work on the estimated £14 billion project due to start in 2021.
In an open letter published in today’s Daily Telegraph opponents say the plans will not only threaten an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), but also jeopardise the area’s lucrative tourism industry.
Campaigners, who also include Matthew Freud, the PR guru, Melvin Benn, who runs the Latitude music festival and Humphrey Burton, the classical music presenter and broadcaster, say the plans also threaten the viability of a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the area, along with the RSPB’s famous Minsmere Reserve.
David Wood, chairman of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB said: “The impact will be phenomenal. This is a designated national park that will be virtually cut in two for a minimum of 10 years.
“This is a fragile and beautiful landscape worth many millions a year in tourism and the impact will be devastating.”
The row comes after EDF announced its construction plans would involve transporting materials for the project by road to and from the A12 rather than by sea.
Previous proposals to transport the material along the coast, to and from a jetty at the site, were scrapped in the light of fears over the impact on marine wildlife and protected seabirds.
In the letter the campaigners, who also include Andy Wood, the chief executive of Adnams, the Suffolk brewery and hotelier, and actor Helen Atkinson-Wood, state: “We are deeply concerned that EDF Energy’s Sizewell C plans will lay waste to large portions of this rich and diverse part of the country.
“Landscapes, wildlife and residents of this unique part of the British Isles will suffer enormously.”
It adds: “This is not hyperbole – the level of disruption will jeopardise tourism to the AONB, valued at more than £210m/year, as holidaymakers no longer associate the area with peace and tranquillity, and seek to avoid traffic chaos caused by the construction of Sizewell C.”
Andy Wood told The Telegraph: “It’s not that I’m against new nuclear, it’s that I’m against the scale of this. It puts at serious risk the tourism economy that has grown substantially over the years.”
Among those who say their lives will be turned upside down by the building work is Paul Field, a tech entrepreneur who lives eight miles from the Sizewell plant.
He says EDF is planning to build a busy construction depot just yards from his family’s farmhouse, where he lives with his wife Michaela and their three daughters, effectively slashing thousands of pounds off the value of his property.
Mr Field, a former newspaper executive, says that their lives will be made a misery by the construction work.
“The last thing Michaela and I want for our daughters is the upheaval of moving from a home we love, but we accept there is no alternative,” he said. “EDF admits we will suffer ‘significant adverse effects’ from noise. At the peak of construction, 1,500 HGVs and 6,000 other vehicles would thunder past each day.”
EDF Energy said that it "takes its responsibilities to the environment and local communities seriously" and that it had a "good track record of looking after nature around our operating power station at Sizewell B".
It added: "The environmental sensitivities of the local area have been a key consideration in the development of our proposals for Sizewell C. Our ecologists have continued to undertake environmental surveys and identify likely impacts to help inform our proposals. Our planners have worked with local councils to develop a transport strategy for workers and freight that minimises the impact on local roads.
"We understand that how our workers travel to site and how we move freight is important to local people during construction. We will use rail as well as road transport and a beach landing facility to move freight. Our aim is to maximise the huge benefits in jobs and skills for local people, especially the young, whilst minimising the environmental impact of the project."