Minsmere RSPB Reserve, pond and sand martin bank

Sizewell C new nuclear power station, Suffolk

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Construction Casework type: Energy Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SAC Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
Minsmere RSPB Reserve, view across Minsmere from Dunwich,


The proposed Sizewell C nuclear power plant development has the potential to have a major impact on one of the most wildlife-rich areas of the UK.

RSPB Minsmere nature reserve is adjacent to the proposed development site on the Suffolk Coast and has been a nature reserve since 1947. It is one of our flagship sites for both wildlife and visitors. Minsmere forms part of a wider area of the Suffolk Coast widely recognised for its value for wildlife.

The Suffolk Coast is an outstanding location for wildlife and people alike, with a rich and varied mosaic of habitats providing a landscape of wild beauty. It is a safe haven for an amazing variety of wildlife including iconic species such as the bittern, marsh harrier and otter.

It is protected by a number of national and international nature conservation designations. These include:

  • SSSI (a type of protected area with special or exceptional wildlife features)
  • SPA (European designation for rare and vulnerable birds)
  • SAC (European designation designed to protect habitats and wildlife species)
  • Ramsar site (for wetlands of international importance)

The site is also only one of five in the United Kingdom to have received the Council of Europe European Diploma for Protected Areas award. A draft resolution for the renewal of this award was approved in March 2019, on the condition that the Sizewell C development doesn’t cause any harm to Minsmere.

The Sizewell estate, which borders RSPB Minsmere to the south, is one of eight sites which have been identified by government as potentially appropriate locations to construct new nuclear power stations. The existing Sizewell nuclear power stations consist of Sizewell A, two reactors now in the process of being decommissioned, and Sizewell B, a single reactor.

The proposals for Sizewell C consist of two reactors to the north of Sizewell B. This will bring the existing development right up to the boundary of Minsmere nature reserve. In addition to the permanent buildings, infrastructure and access roads, there is a significant area of land identified for temporary storage and construction use during the development. If permission is granted, construction is expected to take up to twelve years.

What impact could the development of Sizewell C have on Minsmere?
Our main concerns with the proposed Sizewell C development stem from its proximity to internationally and nationally important and designated wildlife sites, including RSPB Minsmere nature reserve.

You can read more about our specific concerns in the “Our position” section below.


Why is it worth fighting for?

RSPB Minsmere is a very special place, famed internationally as an iconic site for wildlife conservation.

More than 6,000 different animals, plants and fungi have been recorded at Minsmere – more than on any other RSPB reserve and amongst the highest number of any nature reserve in the UK. Minsmere’s habitats include four of national conservation priority: reedbeds, lowland wet grassland, shingle vegetation and lowland heath. These habitats support a wide range of bird, plant and invertebrate populations of international conservation importance.

Among the diverse wildlife are nationally important populations of bittern, marsh harrier and avocet. Other wildlife in the wetlands include otter, water vole, kingfisher, specialist wetland plants and many rare dragonflies and other invertebrates. Across the heathland there are many rare species making a home, including nightjar, woodlark, Dartford warbler, adder, natterjack toad and silver-studded blue butterflies.

As well as its importance to today's wildlife, Minsmere has played a significant role in wildlife conservation throughout the years. The reserve was the springboard for the recovery of both bittern and marsh harrier in the UK and, alongside RSPB Havergate Island a few miles down the coast, Minsmere ensured the successful return of breeding avocet to the UK after an absence of more than 100 years.

Minsmere reserve receives more than 120,000 visitors each year, attracted to the area by the beautiful wide open spaces and wildlife experiences the landscape offers. It plays a vital role in the local community contributing more than £7million to the economy and supporting more than 200 jobs.

The wider Suffolk Coast

RSPB Minsmere forms part of a wider area found within the Suffolk Coast, recognised for its value for wildlife, and protected by a range of national and international nature conservation designations including SSSI (a type of protected area with special or exceptional wildlife features), SPA (which recognises an areas importance for rare and vulnerable birds) and SAC (designed to protect habitats and wildlife species of European significance). and Ramsar (wetlands of international importance).

  • The Minsmere-Walberswick Heaths and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) contains a complex of habitats, notably mudflats, shingle beach, reedbeds, heathland and grazing marsh and supports populations of important birds, including bearded tit, Cetti's warbler and shoveler, scarce plants such as whorled water milfoil and a number of rare wetland moths.
  • The Minsmere to Walberswick Special Protection Area (SPA), is designated for its breeding bird populations, including bittern, marsh harrier, avocet, little tern, nightjar, woodlark and several wildfowl species. It is also designated for its wintering birds, such as hen harrier and bittern.
  • The Minsmere/Walberswick Heaths and Marshes Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is designated for its coastal and dry heathland habitats.
  • The Minsmere/Walberswick Heaths and Marshes Ramsar site is designated for its variety of marine, freshwater, marshland and associated habitats. It also supports a number of rare plants, such as red-tipped cudweed, invertebrates including the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, and important rare breeding birds such as teal and avocet.

We want to ensure these important sites are safeguarded for people and wildlife.

How have you helped so far?

In January 2019, EDF opened the Stage 3 public consultation on their proposals for Sizewell C.

We responded to the consultation in detail after assessing the environmental information and evidence provided by EDF in the consultation documents.

More than 20,000 of you added your own response to the consultation by signing our Love Minsmere e-petition. We can’t thank you enough for adding your voice to this campaign.

A further unscheduled fourth and final stage of consultation ran between July and September 2019. 

In response to this final consultation we launched the Love Minsmere Festival – which saw over 1000 of you gathered on Whin Hill, site of the BBC Springwatch studio, and one of the reserve’s most amazing viewpoints, collectively declaring your love for Minsmere

You helped form an outline of the Love Minsmere love heart with Sizewell in the background, sending a visual message to EDF that the reserve must be protected.

Then, in November 2020 Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin launched the RSPB’s and Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s new #LoveMinsmere e-action during a live online event, #LoveMinsmere Live. We called on supporters to take make nature’s voice stronger in the planning process.

An amazing 104,836 people stepped up and signed our e-action - this helped to show the Planning Inspectorate how many of us Love Minsmere. Please see our Written Representations submitted during the Examination which included a summary of the Love Minsmere campaign and the fantastic support it received. 

To find out the latest on how you can support this campaign head to the Love Minsmere webpage.

Our position

The RSPB is concerned that Sizewell C has the potential to have a major adverse environmental impact on an area of the Suffolk Coast recognised for its value for wildlife, and protected by a range of national and international nature conservation designations.

We do not believe that Sizewell is a suitable position for a new nuclear power station. As highlighted in the Government’s National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6), Sizewell C could have detrimental impacts on internationally and nationally important landscapes, habitats and species of the Suffolk coast and at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve. 

Based on the information presented in the application and through out the Examination, our main concerns relate to the following key areas:

  • Coastal processes. Concern that the beach landing facility and hard coastal defence feature could have significant impacts on coastal processes affecting the Minsmere-Walberswick designated wildlife sites.
  • Hydrology. Potential for significant impacts on water quality and water movement affecting the Minsmere-Walberswick designated wildlife sites and the Sizewell Marshes SSSI.
  • Noise and visual disturbance. Concern about effects on marsh harriers and waterbirds of the Minsmere-Walberswick designated wildlife sites
  • Loss of designated wildlife sites. Concern about the level of land take from Sizewell Marshes SSSI and the lack of justification for this. Need for clarity that there will not be land take from the Minsmere-Walberswick designated wildlife sites.
  • Recreational pressure. Concern that footpath closures and diversions during construction and the proximity of the workers’ campus could result in increased trampling of sensitive wildlife sites. During the Examination, mitigation was proposed to address these issues. 
  • Marine ecology. Concern about thermal and chemical discharges and reduction in fish prey due to cooling system impacts affecting red-throated divers and terns from the Outer Thames Estuary SPA. Mitigation was proposed for impacts of shipping disturbance to red-throated divers.
  • Other impacts. Other effects on designated wildlife sites including on air quality and protected species, and effects on visitors to RSPB Minsmere.
  • Overarching concern that EDF have not properly assessed the total impacts of the project – i.e. the combined total effects of all the above impacts on important wildlife sites and species.

The Planning Inspectorate accepted EDF’s Development Consent Order application and on the 30th September 2020 we submitted our Relevant Representation, setting out our key areas of concern. Our representation is available to view on the Planning Inspectorate website and in our Downloads section below.

Once the Examination started on 15th April 2021, we made regular written submissions and spoke at hearings about our concerns. The Examination closed on 14th October 2021. Our submissions can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website, and some of our key submissions are also in the Downloads section below.

We expect that the Examining Authority will issue their report to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by the 14th January 2022. After this the Secretary of State has 3 further months in which to make the decision (they may ask further questions of the Applicant or Interested Parties at this stage). We therefore expect a decision by 14th April 2022.


  • 25 May 2022 Deadline for Secretary of State to make the decision
  • 14 October 2021 The Examination is concluded

  • 2 June 2021 The RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust submitted our Written Representations to the Planning Inspectorate, detailing our key areas of concern, at deadline 2. Our full Written Representations can be found here.

  • 21 April 2021 The Examination Authority accepted the Applicant’s 15 changes to the application

  • 15 April 2021 The Examination started and will run for 6 months until 14 October 2021. We will be submitting our Written Representations, detailing our key areas of concern, at deadline 2 on 2 June

  • 18 November to 18 December 2020
    The change application public consultation ran for 4 weeks from 18 November 2020

  • 30 September 2020 Registration to become an interested party closed. We submitted our Relevant Representation, a summary of our key areas of concern, in order to register as an Interested Party allowing us to take part in the examination.

  • 24 June 2020 
    EDF’s application for a Development Consent Order was accepted by the Planning Inspectorate for further examination.  This initiated the pre-examination stage. During this period, interested parties can contribute their views, either in writing or by attending hearings. Although there is no statutory timescale for this stage of the process, it often takes around three months. More details can be found here.
  • 27 May 2020 EDF submitted its Development Consent Order application for Sizewell C to the Planning Inspectorate. 
  • October 2019 – May 2020  EDF analysed consultation feedback and developed final proposals.
  • 18 July – 27 September 2019  The unexpected Stage 4 public consultation ran for 10 weeks from 18 July 2019. 

  • 4 January – 29 March 2019
    The Stage 3 public consultation ran for 12 weeks from 4 January 2019. 

  • January 2017
    We submitted our response to the Stage 2 public consultation. EDF’s consultation documents are available on their website.

  • 2015
    RSPB contributed to the Evidence Plan for the proposal. This formed part of the process of assessing potential impacts on internationally designated wildlife sites, and focuses on identifying the evidence required for this assessment prior to an application being made.

  • February 2012
    We responded to the Stage 1 consultation and the outline plans contained within it. We raised concerns about a number of possible environmental impacts and requested more information to determine our position.

  • 2011
    Pre-application stage began. The pre-application stage ended when the plans were submitted for approval to the Planning Inspectorate in 2020.


PDF, 784 Kb, Final submissions for the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust


PDF, 245kb, RSPB SWT response to Sizewell C consultation on proposed changes

RSPB SWT response to Sizewell C consultation on proposed changes

PDF, 280kb, RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust shared concerns for Sizewell C

Suffolk Wildlife Trust shared concerns for Sizewell C

PDF, 188 Kb. RSPB Relevant Representations Sizewell C

RSPB Relevant Representations Sizewell C

PDF, 200 Kb. The RSPB's response to Sizewell C Stage 4 consultation

RSPB response to Sizewell C Stage 4 consultation

PDF, 378Kb. The RSPB's response to Sizewell C Stage 3 consultation

RSPB response to Sizewell C Stage 3 consultation

PDF, 116Kb. The RSPB's response to the Sizewell C Stage 2 consultation

RSPB response to Sizewell C Stage 2 consultation

PDF, 186kb. RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust key concerns from written representations

RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust key concerns from written representations

Campaign Champion

Wave Climate Change march, London December 5, 2009

As an RSPB Campaign Champion, we'll help you get your voice heard.

When we contact you about our campaigns, we'll send you all the necessary information, explaining the issues and the key points. We'll give you all the materials you need. We'll also include details of where to send any letters or emails and tips on making them as effective as possible.