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

Working together to save Minsmere

The Sizewell Estate, on the southern boundary of Minsmere, is where EDF plan to build a new nuclear power station, Sizewell C. This could be catastrophic for wildlife. The building work may increase erosion, upsetting the delicate balance of the reserve. It could affect the water levels in Minsmere’s ditches, impacting its rare wetland wildlife, which includes bitterns, otters and ducks. Once the construction is in progress, it may increase levels of noise and light pollution. Rare marsh harriers, breeding ducks and geese and wading birds are very sensitive to this. The effects will be long-term.

We asked for your help – to tell EDF what you think, and to protect this special landscape for the future. An incredible 20,419 of you acted and emailed EDF. Thank you so much for your continued support.

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. 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?
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, including 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 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?

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

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

We have 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.

On 18 July 2019, EDF announced a further unscheduled fourth stage of consultation which is focusing on the environment and transport. This consultation is set to run until 27 September 2019.

The details of this can be found on their 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.

Based on the information presented in the Stage 3 consultation our main concerns relate to the following key areas:

  • Planning policy. Concern that it has not been demonstrated that Sizewell C is the least damaging site option in terms of impacts on designated wildlife sites.
  • 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.
  • Other impacts. Other effects on designated wildlife sites including on air quality and protected species, and effects on visitors to RSPB Minsmere.

The RSPB has reviewed the Stage 3 consultation documents and has provided detailed comments on these in the annex to this response. We had several areas of particular concern following previous public consultations and we have set these out in our response, along with an indication of the level to which the Stage 3 consultation addresses these concerns. Few of our concerns from Stages 1 and 2 have been resolved, and based on the evidence available at present, we do not have confidence that Sizewell C can be developed without significant impacts on the designated wildlife sites of the Suffolk Coast, and Minsmere in particular.

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 Stage 3 documents can be found here.

 

Timeline

  • 18 July – 27 September 2019
    The unexpected Stage 4 public consultation is running for 10 weeks from 18 July 2019. Following the consultation, EDF will submit their final proposal to the Planning Inspectorate.

  • 4 January – 29 March 2019
    The Stage 3 public consultation ran 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.

    An application for a Development Consent Order is expected in January 2020. If the application is accepted by the Planning Inspectorate, which normally takes around three months, a six-month examination of the proposals will begin. During this period, interested parties can contribute their views, either in writing or by attending hearings. More details about this can be found here.

    We’ll continue to update these pages with details of how you can get involved.

Download

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: 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.