In a joint statement, published on 24 June, East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council outlined that, whilst EDF Energy has formally met the legal requirements for consultation on the Sizewell C proposals, they still have serious concerns about EDF Energy’s consultations to date and its compliance with the Government’s guidance and advice on the pre-application process.
The Councils were asked by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to provide their views on the adequacy of EDF Energy’s consultation so far. In their ‘Adequacy of Consultation Response’, the Councils conclude that EDF Energy has complied with the legal requirements of the Planning Act 2008. However, the lack of a comprehensive set of documents up to this point has compromised the engagement that has taken place, and the Councils do not feel they have been able to complete their pre-application work with the Applicant (EDF Energy) to the extent set out by the Planning Act 2008. In their response, the Councils refer to several statutory consultees and many Town and Parish Councils having raised similar concerns about the level and quality of information that has been made available throughout the consultation exercises.
Given the ongoing lockdown restrictions relating to Covid-19, the councils strongly believe EDF Energy should carefully consider how and when the engagement period on the Development Control Order submission documents should take place, to ensure that all of the community can have their say.
Suffolk County Councillor Richard Rout, Chairman of Sizewell C Joint Local Authorities Group (JLAG) said:
“Whilst we accept that EDF Energy may have passed the legal requirement they needed to meet in regards to public consultation for their proposed development at Sizewell, we strongly believe that the consultations to date have been hindered by significant gaps of information in the documentation provided. There is still much more that needs to be done before EDF Energy can fully satisfy a range of outstanding questions and issues that remain unanswered up to this point.
“Our local communities have very strongly fed back to us their concerns about the consultations to date. It is now especially important that EDF Energy gives the local communities the fullest opportunity to ask relevant questions and understand plans for the new development at Sizewell C, given the period of lockdown and social distancing we all continue to experience in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We will make our feelings clear to EDF Energy in regards to public engagement arrangements for such a development (known as Section 56) and if EDF Energy do decide to press on and start the process, we will be asking them to commit to an extended 84 day period at the very least.
“In advance of the DCO submission, stakeholders had not seen a full Environmental Statement relating to this proposal, nor draft copies of some of the most critical pre-planning documents EDF Energy will rely upon during construction. “Whilst we recognise EDF Energy’s engagement with the Councils on the principles and strategic approaches, we would have expected much greater detail of what they have in mind.
“I hope that we can have constructive discussions with EDF Energy and the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to address the important unresolved issues we have raised throughout the consultations that must be tackled if the development is going to be a success.”
East Suffolk Council Councillor Craig Rivett, Vice-Chairman of Sizewell C JLAG said:
“At last we have the opportunity to review and assess EDF Energy’s submission in full, including the complete Environmental Statement, which we had not seen to date. I acknowledge that there is a great deal of unease in some communities regarding the next stages of the process and I look forward to discussing with EDF Energy when it will be appropriate to start the public engagement and what measures they should take to ensure this engagement is effective so that everyone can understand the significant detail in the submission and make their views and concerns known.
“We shall be putting in place a rigorous programme of assessment and continuing our discussions with EDF Energy in advance of the examination in public. We will continue to listen to our towns and parishes and look forward to speaking with them in greater detail once we have all had an opportunity to review the submission in full.
“The decision on this application will be made by the Government’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, having regard to national policy and so, if it is consented, we need to ensure we get the best outcome for the communities of East Suffolk, both during construction and beyond, during the station’s operation for the next 60 years. The role of the Councils is hugely important to secure the best outcomes and we appreciate that there are many in our communities who object to the proposals in principle and/or have significant concerns on aspects of the proposal that will directly affect them. Be assured those concerns are understood and our role is to challenge the evidence against national policy, and the local impacts, and negotiate the best outcomes for the project as a whole but if the evidence does not stack up we will resist.”
The Adequacy of Consultation Response document, submitted by East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council, can be viewed in full alongside other related correspondence by visiting eastsuffolk.gov.uk