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,

Overview

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

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.

RSPB Minsmere, adjacent to the proposed development site on the Suffolk Coast, has been a nature reserve since 1947 and is one of our flagship sites for both wildlife and visitors.

Minsmere nature reserve forms part of a wider area of the Suffolk Coast widely recognised for its value for wildlife. It is 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 (European designation for rare and vulnerable birds), SAC (European designation designed to protect habitats and wildlife species) and Ramsar site (for wetlands of international importance).

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.  

Proposals for Sizewell C began in 2009 when EDF Energy nominated an area of land north of Sizewell B as a site for Sizewell C. In July 2011, the UK Government confirmed the site was potentially suitable.

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. 

At this stage our main concerns with the proposed Sizewell C development stem from its proximity to internationally and nationally important and designated wildlife sites, especially RSPB Minsmere nature reserve. Although no direct development is proposed on the reserve itself, there is potential for impacts on Minsmere's coastline through changes in coastal processes as a result of the planned sea defences for the development.

There is also potential for impacts on the reserve's wetland habitats resulting from changes to water availability, and for direct disturbance of protected wildlife, namely marsh harrier, and species of waterfowl and waders. There will be direct loss of some wetland and fen habitat at Sizewell Marshes SSSI. 

EDF Energy published its Stage 2 Consultation Document and launched the Stage 2 public consultation in  November 2016. You can read the RSPB's response to this consultation.

Much of the information presented in the Stage 2 Consultation Document related to elements of the project that will not impact on RSPB Minsmere and other protected wildlife sites. There were some points of concern, however, including the potential for Sizewell C's coastal defences and other coastal structures to affect the natural coastal processes operating on the RSPB Minsmere coastline.

If these structures were to cause increased erosion, this could result in effects on the reserve's habitats, now or in the future. If this happens, the development will have a significant impact on both nationally and internationally important wildlife areas. The information provided in the Stage 2 consultation was not detailed enough to give us confidence that damage to Minsmere's coastline will not occur as a result of the proposed development. 

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The proposed development site is located next to internationally and nationally important wildlife sites, including RSPB Minsmere and RSPB North Warren nature reserves.

Minsmere

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

Located on the Suffolk Coast between Southwold and Aldeburgh, more than 5,600 species of animals and plants make a home at Minsmere, the highest diversity of any RSPB reserve and amongst the highest of any reserve in the UK.  Minsmere's habitats include four national conservation priorities - reedbeds, lowland wet grassland, shingle vegetation and lowland heath. These habitats support a 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 100,000 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 £3million to the economy and supporting more than 100 jobs.

North Warren

RSPB North Warren nature reserve is located close to Aldeburgh, with a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats including grazing marshes, reedbeds, heathland and woodland. The reserve is home to thousands of ducks, swans and geese in winter, and in spring is a crucial safe haven for vulnerable species including breeding bitterns, marsh harriers, woodlarks and nightingales as well as many species of butterflies and dragonflies. The reserve is much loved by both locals and holiday makers, offering peace and quiet away from the busier coast path.

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 you can help

The RSPB responded to the information EDF Energy provided in the Stage 2 Consultation Document in January 2017. Our main concerns with the Sizewell C proposals were outlined earlier. One of our key concerns is the potential for the development to affect the coastline at RSPB Minsmere. 

We are expecting a third stage of public consultation before an application is submitted. This will be an important opportunity for organisations and individuals to make their views known. Once the new information is available, we will update these pages, including ways you can help.

Our position

We responded to the information EDF Energy provided in the Stage 2 Consultation Document in January 2017.

This was the second of three stages of consultation expected before an application for development consent is submitted.

Our main concerns, based on the information presented in the consultation are explained below:

  • Our overarching concern is the lack of detail and evidence provided to support the proposals. For many aspects of the proposals, the evidence provided is not sufficient to reassure us that environmental damage will not result.
  • We are particularly concerned about the potential for Sizewell C's coastal defences and other coastal structures to affect the natural coastal processes operating on the RSPB Minsmere coastline. If these structures were to cause increased erosion, this could result in effects on the reserve's habitats, now or in the future. The information provided in the Stage 2 consultation is not detailed enough to give us confidence that damage to Minsmere's coastline will not occur as a result of the proposed development.
  • The Sizewell C development as currently proposed will result in the loss of wetland habitat from Sizewell Marshes SSSI. We are also concerned about the potential for additional damage to other areas within the SSSI during construction of the development.
  • The construction of Sizewell C could influence water levels in the ditches and the groundwater. Changes in water availability could potentially have significant impacts on rare wetland wildlife found at Minsmere.
  • The construction work and freight transport associated with the development could result in environmental impacts caused by noise and light pollution which could disturb nearby wildlife. A number of rare species found at Minsmere, such as marsh harrier and breeding waterfowl and waders, are potentially sensitive to these forms of disturbance.

We will continue to contribute to the Evidence Plan process, which forms part of the process of assessing potential environmental impacts and focuses on identifying the evidence that EDF will be required to present as part of the final development consent application. In this way we can keep up to date with the planning process as it progresses, as well as giving ourselves the opportunity to influence designs and plans to achieve the best outcome for nature. 

We are currently awaiting the third stage of public consultation before an application is submitted. As more environmental information becomes available we will assess the ecological impacts and we will object if these assessments are inadequate or the impacts are unacceptable.

Timeline

  • Ongoing
    We expect there to be a third stage of public consultations before an application for Development Consent is made. Once the application is submitted, there will be a 6-month Examination of the application, with the decision by the Secretary of State following up to 6-months after the close of the Examination.

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

  • 2015
    We are currently contributing to the Evidence Plan process for the proposal. This forms 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. We are still currently in this pre-application stage which involves consultation and evidence gathering.

Download

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

RSPB response to Sizewell C Stage 2 consultation