Possibly the RSPB’s best-known reserve, Minsmere, is recognised as one of the most important areas for nature in the UK, with more than 6,000 different species recorded on the reserve. It is famous for some of the UK’s rarest birds, such as marsh harriers and bitterns, that call this place home, and that only avoided extinction in the UK after surviving in Minsmere’s reedbeds.
However, the whole area is now being threatened by development. The Sizewell Estate, on the southern boundary of Minsmere, is where the energy company EDF plan to build a new nuclear power station, known as Sizewell C.
The RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust are arguing against the proposed development, in the absence of any evidence that Sizewell C can be built without ruining this amazing section of the Suffolk coast.
The two organisations are also really concerned about the timing of the next phase of this decision. To do it now, in the middle of a public health crisis, means that the plans won’t get the public scrutiny they desperately need.
Ben McFarland, SWT’s Conservation Manager said: “Current plans suggest the direct loss of nationally important and protected land on Sizewell Belts, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). An area between 10-12 hectares – or roughly ten football pitches - will be covered in concrete. The loss of this nationally rare fen habitat would be devastating and irreplaceable.”
On land right next door to RSPB Minsmere, the build will bring the Sizewell Estate right to the very edge of the reserve. 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, water voles, otters and ducks. Once the construction is in progress, it may increase levels of noise and light pollution. Marsh harriers, ducks and geese and wading birds in particular are very sensitive to this. The effects will be long-term.
With a lack of evidence to allay these concerns, the charities do not believe that the environmental evidence presented will allow for a full and robust assessment of all possible impacts of the application on the neighbouring conservation sites.
Adam Rowlands, RSPB Suffolk Area Manager said: “The Government has already recognised in their National Policy Statement for Nuclear Power Generation (EN-6) that 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.
“EDF have not presented us with sufficient evidence that these disastrous impacts can be avoided. Without this evidence, we have been forced to conclude given the levels of uncertainty, that the build must not go ahead given its anticipated impacts on the environment.”
Adam added: “It’s outrageous that EDF have decided to proceed with this decision in the midst of a public health crisis. Nature is crucial to many people’s mental and physical wellbeing at this time of national challenge and I’m sure many will be disappointed to know that plans for Sizewell C represent a huge loss for nature.”
Last Updated: Wednesday 1 July 2020