Sizewell C: How will EDF Energy's new nuclear plant change Suffolk?

The area around Sizewell is popular with tourists.
Credit: PA
The area around Sizewell is popular with tourists for its wild coastal beauty. Credit: PA

After years of uncertainty, the government has granted development consent to the multi-billion Sizewell C nuclear plant on the Suffolk coast.

Debate around the contentious project has been heated, with supporters and opponents passionate and vociferous in their views.

But what does it all mean for the Sizewell area, Suffolk and wider across East Anglia?

ITV News looks at some of the impacts on the local area, from construction and conservation, to tourism and jobs.

  • What effect will Sizewell C have on the landscape?

The whole of the Sizewell C project will cover around 915 acres onshore, which would make it one of the largest construction sites in Europe.

To house the workers building the plant, a 2,400-bed accommodation campus will be set up and the site will be operational 24 hours a day.

The build, when it starts, is estimated to take between 10 and 12 years.

Steve Brett lives and farms right next to where Sizewell C would be built, and his farm would lose more than 20 acres to the construction.

Steve Brett said the impact of Sizewell C would be "life-changing". Credit: ITV News Anglia

He said: "It's life changing. I'm worried - I think that we've got enormous change coming. The farm will lose land we need to produce food for the cows."

He added: "As chairman of the parish council I'm very worried for all the traffic that's going to come through the village. All of a sudden we are going to have a soil store of 35 metres high and we've also got the campus at the top of the road. It will just change the aspect completely."

  • What will be involved in the construction?

EDF Energy, the French-owned energy company behind the plans, has pledged that around 60% of construction materials will come to the site by sea and rail.

However, a lot of the supplies and the workforce will come by road.

EDF will build a two-village bypass on the A12 around Stratford St Andrew and Farnham, two park and ride sites accommodating 2,500 vehicles, and a link road to the site.

Locals believe all this will have a big impact on the region's roads.

Richard Cooper, from Marlesford Parish Council, said: "We're expecting 600 HGV movements a day, so this part of the A12 will be very heavily impacted.

"We've got residents who are literally living metres from the A12 and they already experience vibration and that will only get worse."

4,000 businesses across Suffolk are expected to be part of the supply chain Credit: ITV Anglia

  • How will the local economy benefit?

Around £1.5bn will be spent in Suffolk during the construction of Sizewell C, says EDF Energy, and the project will make an estimated lifetime contribution of £4bn to the economy.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce expects to work with more than 4,000 companies hoping to benefit from the supply chain - from construction companies and suppliers, to hospitality businesses serving the thousands of workers.

Ashley Shorey-Mills from the business group said: "There are huge opportunities in this project. There's a commitment to £4.4bn throughout the construction of Sizewell C to Suffolk and the wider region of East Anglia.

"Our job in Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is hold EDF and Sizewell C to those commitments and to ensure the local and regional supply chan has both the opportunity and the ability to win the work at Sizewell C."

  • How will it be paid for?

The government has already committed £100m to the project and has revealed it plans to use a regulated asset base (RAB) funding model.

That model is intended to give investors a set return during the building of a project - thereby reducing their risk and making the investment more attractive to other parties.

However, critics say that it moves the cost and risks of delays from the investors to taxpayers.

The government says that the model has been used successfully in the building of Heathrow Terminal 5 and the Thames Tideway super-sewer in London, and argues that the model could reduce the total cost of the nuclear power station by more than £30bn over its 60-year lifespan.

  • What effect will it have on tourism?

The area is a popular tourist destination with nearby towns like Southwold and Aldeburgh a well-known haunt for the rich and famous including actor Tom Hiddleston, director Richard Curtis, TV and radio presenter Bill Turnbull and Spooks star Miranda Raison.

And leading figures and businesses reliant on the tourism economy have voiced concerns about the effect the construction project will have.

Andy Wood, chief executive of brewer Adnams, which runs pubs across the county, said: "The visitor economy here in Suffolk is between £2bn and £3bn, so it's a massive employer and it's a massive attraction for people to visit Suffolk every year.

"Having a project the scale of Sizewell C will just subject the industry to decades of disruption."

The site adjoins RSPB Minsmere, home to many rare species of wild birds. Credit: ITV News Anglia

  • What effect will Sizewell C have on wildlife?

The construction site runs right up to the RSPB's Minsmere reserve which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The reserve is home to a huge variety of wildlife including nightjars, marsh harrier, otters and water voles.

However campaigners say the infrastructure, noise and light pollution will have a destructive effect on the delicate ecosystem.

Adam Rowlands from the RSPB said: "We are extremely disappointed [at the granting of development consent]. This feels like a really sad day for nature - this is one of Europe's premier nature reserves and to have one of Europe's largest construction sites on its boundary for 10 to 12 years, that could have devastating impacts."

  • How much power will Sizewell C produce?

Sizewell C will generate enough electricity to supply around six million homes, says EDF.

Compared to using a gas-fired power station it will reduce emissions by around nine million tonnes of CO2 every year.

Julia Pyke, Sizewell C's financing director, said: "Energy costs will be lower with nuclear in the mix, so [the consent] decision is good news for bill-payers.

"The tried and tested funding arrangement we are proposing means that, by paying a small amount during construction, consumers will benefit in the long-term."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know