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

Love Minsmere

We all #LoveMinsmere. But this unforgettable reserve could be under threat from a new nuclear power station. We need you to act now, and tell EDF what you think to protect this special landscape for the future.

Please show your support on the 4 January 2019 when the consultation opens. 

Minsmere RSPB Reserve, view across Minsmere from Dunwich,

Overview

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.

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?
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.

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

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

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

More than 5,600 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 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.

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

On 4 January 2019, EDF will open the Stage 3 public consultation on their proposals for Sizewell C.

Lasting 12 weeks, closing on Friday 29 March, this is the third and final round of public consultation before an application is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. As such, this is our last chance to raise any concerns about the potential impacts of the proposals on the protected species and habitats of RSPB Minsmere nature reserve and the wider Suffolk Coast.

We will respond to the consultation in detail after assessing any environmental information and evidence provided by EDF in the consultation documents. Once it has been submitted, our response to the Stage 3 consultation will be published here in the “Download” section below.

You can help by adding your own response to the consultation. We will publish more information and a link to the consultation here after 4 January 2019.

The latest news on the consultation from EDF is published on their Sizewell C project website.

Our position

The RSPB is concerned that Sizewell C does have 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 yet know what new environmental information and evidence will be provided in the Stage 3 consultation, but 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.

Based on the information presented in the Stage 2 consultation our main concerns relate to:

  • 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 loss of wetland habitat from Sizewell Marshes SSSI that will result from the development of Sizewell C. We are also concerned about the potential for additional damage to other areas within the SSSI during construction of the development.
  • The potential for the construction of Sizewell C to impact on the hydrology of Minsmere, affecting water levels in the ditches and the groundwater. Changes in water availability could potentially have significant impacts on rare wetland wildlife found on the reserve.
  • The construction work and freight transport associated with the development, which could result in environmental impacts caused by noise and light pollution, leading to disturbance of 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.

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 via the link in the Timeline section below.

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.

Timeline

  • 4 January – 29 March 2019
    The Stage 3 public consultation will run for 12 weeks from 4 January 2019. Following the consultation, EDF will submit their final proposal to the Planning Inspectorate.

  • 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 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

PDF: RSPB position on Sizewell C - FAQs

RSPB position on Sizewell C - FAQs

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.

Sign-up today to be notified when the Sizewell C consultation opens (4 Jan 2019).