Somerset councils and EDF Energy have signed a landmark agreement which will deliver nearly £100 million for local communities to mitigate the impact of the proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C.
The breakthrough settlement, between EDF Energy, West Somerset, Sedgemoor District and Somerset County Councils, resolves all the Councils’ principal issues relating to the application to build and operate Britain’s first nuclear power station for more than 20 years. It follows months of detailed discussions on how best to reduce the impact of the development on the local community.
Within the section 106 agreement, more than £64 million will be spent on supporting local communities and services such as education, training, transport and housing. This is in addition to about £30 million committed by EDF Energy earlier this year in relation to site preparation works.
Subject to development consent from the Secretary of State, the new investment package, which includes financial payments and contingency funds, will pay for a range of measures for communities most affected by the development, including:
- Up to £8.5 million for a housing fund to mitigate potential impacts on the local housing market, including the refurbishment of local properties
- £12.8 million as the balance of a £20 million community fund for measures to enhance the quality of life in local communities. The £12.8 million will be independently administered by the Somerset Community Foundation, with council, community and EDF Energy representation on the awarding panel
- Nearly £16 million on a variety of highway improvement schemes, particularly in and around Bridgwater, to ease traffic and enhance road safety
- Over £7.1 million to improve local skills and training, including a final £2 million instalment for the Energy Skills Centre at Bridgwater College
- Up to £4.6 million towards community safety measures
- Almost £5.5 million to support economic development and tourism initiatives
- More than £3 million to support local education provision and provide extra school places, if necessary
- Almost £1 million to support local health services
- £300,000 to be spent on local heritage
- £350,000 to pay for landscape and visual improvements
- More than £440,000 to support improvements to public rights of way
- Over £865,000 on environmental measures, including contributions towards flood defence measures in Cannington (£500,000), Bridgwater (£220,000) and Stolford (£80,000)
- More than £3.6 million to provide additional resources to the local authorities so that they can monitor and ensure the successful implementation of the development and continue to work closely with local communities
Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a landmark agreement for the people of Somerset and for the project. It provides a strong springboard for success. During three years of consultation, we have worked very closely with the local authorities and other groups to identify and mitigate the impact of our proposals. I am delighted that we have agreed a targeted investment programme that will support local communities.
“It heralds a new phase in the Hinkley project and is another important stepping stone ahead of our final investment decision. We look forward to moving ahead in partnership and realising the many opportunities that this important development will deliver, locally and for the nation.”
Sedgemoor Council Leader, Cllr Duncan McGinty, said: “Now the planning process is in its final stages, and we have reached agreement with EDF Energy on the best way forward should consent be granted, all our energies must go into making this a development of which the country and our communities can be proud. This will be a huge project that has the ability to shape and change the nature of the local economy so our role will be to work with EDF to make sure our expectations are fulfilled.”
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The Councils have worked extremely hard with EDF to minimise any negative impacts that may arise for the community, local businesses and the environment should the development go ahead. Very good progress has been made and with the benefit of the additional measures that EDF will now be putting in place we believe the project will be acceptable should the Secretary of State grant consent.”
The Leader of West Somerset Council, Cllr Tim Taylor, said: “The agreement we have reached is a significant step. The contributions secured ensure that we can put in place measures and initiatives to balance the need to make sure that the benefits of the project are directed towards the most affected communities against inimizing the adverse effects of the project. I am particularly pleased that we have secured over £500k to support West Somerset’s tourist industry, more than £1m to bolster businesses within our District, over £2m to improve skills and training initiatives, including £1.6m towards West Somerset Community College, and the ability to access to over £5m of housing contributions to help meet one of the Council’s top objectives. We are now focusing all our energy on ensuring long-lasting and positive legacy for West Somerset, should consent be granted by the Secretary of State next year.”
The new investment package is subject to planning consent and a final investment decision on the Hinkley Point C project by the end of this year.