Last week I went back to Hinkley Point to meet with local residents. I felt it was a good opportunity to go back and see how things have progressed in the area and find out how local communities are feeling about the proposed development plans. A lot has happened in the last 6 months. We have seen the tragic events in Japan throw nuclear in to the spotlight. As a result, our Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change asked our Chief Nuclear Inspector to produce a report on lessons learned and implications for the nuclear industry. His report reconfirmed that the UK’s safety regime is working and that nuclear can be part of the future energy mix as it is today. We are therefore continuing to remove any barriers to investment to new nuclear. Our Department has published the White Paper on Electricity Market Reform which is aimed at removing uncertainty and provide stronger incentives for investment into the low carbon generation. And we have designated the Energy National Policy Statements including a list of potential sites for nuclear power stations. This paves the way for energy companies to come forward with their planning applications for development.
For Hinkley Point this is most significant as EDF are moving forward with their plans. In advance of them submitting their main planning application to the IPC, they have just had approval from the local authority to start their preliminary works at Hinkley Point. This allows them to prepare the site for construction later down the line.
Of course this makes it very real for local residents and so I wanted to meet with the people of Stogursey and bordering villages to hear their concerns for this development. During my visit I was able to see the area and understand the potential impacts that may be felt. I also took part in a discussion with a small group of residents to hear their views, concerns and answer any questions they had. They talked about how the preliminary works would affect their daily life and wanted reassurances from EDF how this would be mitigated. In particular transport, housing of workers and overall disruption to the area was high on their list of issues.
So a valuable session that gave us all a much better insight into the immediate thoughts and concerns of the community. Where appropriate, we’ll work with EDF and local authorities to address these issues. But of equal importance is ensuring that we keep the conversation going. I’ll be back later in the year to find out how we’re progressing.