Stop Hinkley Press release
17th July 2009
EDF to pay local councils in Hinkley planning deal
EdF Energy, who plan to build two giant nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point are to pay the local councils for their part in the planning process. Hidden deep in a lengthy joint press release (Click Here) from Somerset, Sedgemoor and West Somerset Councils is the proposition that EdF Energy would pay a fee to the councils for their part in the planning process around the proposed new reactors.
The Government has apparently refused to reimburse the councils for any extra outgoings associated with bringing in experts to deal with the applications for preparatory work before the reactors are built. The press release says the councils are reluctant to ask EdF for the cash but only a few months ago it was discovered by nuclearspin that Sedgemoor District Council had asked EdF for £750,000 for exactly this purpose.
Campaigners are concerned that public trust will be lost in the deal and it would be problematic to show their independence from a developer who will hand over this kind of money. Moreover the agreement appears to be being rushed through without prior recommendation from other relevant council committees. Normally new policy would pass through the Scrutiny, Planning or Cabinet Committees together with their recommendations and reservations but this has not occurred.
It has been suggested that the Somerset Nuclear Energy Group (SNEG) an informal group of council officers and councillors has put the proposal forward, having jointly drafted it with EdF Energy. But SNEG has no formal standing as part of the democratic process. Although the earlier cash request to EdF was said to have come from SNEG, their minutes contained no reference to it.
The ultimate yes or no decision for the new reactors will come from the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a quango which replaces the established Public Inquiry with a 'fast-track' six month process to include some hearings. No cross examination will be allowed. But the Conservatives have pledged to abolish the IPC if they get elected, which would leave local councils shouldering more responsibility in the decision process. This could be even more difficult if the developer has paid a big fee to those councils.
Other nuclear planning processes are still to be overcome before the councils become involved. The Justification process, an EU requirement on new sources of radiation is currently in operation, together with the Strategic Siting Assessment. The safety licence for the new reactor design will not be decided until June 2011.
Earthworks at Hinkley Point are already well under way, with fencing partitioning off long existing rights of way used by local residents in the village of Shurton who have complained to Stop Hinkley about the restrictions on them. The site has expanded since Edf bought the first plot of land to a massive 85 hectares, four times the area of the existing power station sites of Hinkley Point A and B.
Jim Duffy, Coordinator of Stop Hinkley said: "There is a clear conflict of interest in this deal with such a large, powerful developer. The councils should do all they can to keep clear ground between themselves and EdF. Currently the lines are very blurred. If the Tories get in then the councils would play a bigger part in a decision on Hinkley C and D but would find themselves compromised by having taken the cash."
"New policies should go through scrutinising committees who can pick through the detail and debate the repercussions, rather than being sneaked on to a crowded agenda at the full council meetings. Democratic processes are being brushed aside, which will lead to resentment in the community."
Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07798 666756