Sizewell C threatens stunning wild coast

Vegetated shingle at Sizewell beach,  Suffolk Wildlife Trust, by Steve Aylward

Proposed nuclear power station would sabotage Government’s 30 by 30 pledge to nature

This week the Government has announced ‘greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes’ and has promised to designate more Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and “to protect and restore our natural environment and diverse ecosystems.” It comes at a time of increasing concern over EDF’s plans to build a new twin nuclear reactor on the Suffolk coast – Sizewell C – a development which would cut through the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and important wildlife designations.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust believes that the proposed development in such a wildlife-rich, fragile location would be catastrophic for UK nature when wildlife declines are so extreme that the Government recently has committed to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030 to allow nature to recover. After a decade of assessing the impact, Suffolk Wildlife Trust believes that Sizewell C should not go ahead. The development would be devastating for nature.

Christine Luxton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust says:

“Sizewell C would destroy a vast swathe of the Suffolk coastline in one of the most beautiful natural parts of the UK. People visit this part of Suffolk from all over the country to enjoy the wild countryside. If this vast development gets the go-ahead, an area of the coast the size of 900 football pitches will be directly affected by the development. Barn owls, water voles and kingfishers will see their habitat destroyed.

“Nature is already in huge trouble and the sheer scale of this development will make a bad situation much, much worse. We will not solve the climate crisis by destroying natural habitats that lock-up carbon. This is the wrong time and the wrong place for such a colossal and damaging development.”

What Sizewell C would destroy or damage:

  • An area the size of around 900 football pitches – 500 hectares – right in the middle of the officially designated Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  A Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and a RAMSAR site would also be impacted.
  • A huge area of farmland and nationally rare wildlife habitats such as heathland, oak woods, sand dunes, shingle, fen, marsh, reedbed and natural grassland.
  • 10 hectares of Sizewell Marshes, a highly protected Site of Special Scientific Interest will be lost. This fragile place is home to orchids, otter, dragonflies and fen plants such as bogbean and bog pimpernel.
  • Birds such as barn owl, marsh harrier and kingfisher, and mammals such as water vole will be disturbed and have their habitat destroyed.
  • The Trust has particular concerns over the potential impact on nationally rare populations of barbastelle bats and natterjack toads.
  • 3 million fish will be killed each year when they are sucked into the power station cooling system – this will affect the entire marine ecosystem of the east coast.

For over a decade, Suffolk Wildlife Trust has invested time and expertise to assess the scale of the potential damage to nature. The charity has attended numerous meetings with EDF Energy to discuss ways that damage to habitats could be mitigated and to highlight deep and unresolved concerns over the impact upon wildlife.

Christine Luxton continues:

“We do not believe it would be possible to make up for the damage Sizewell C would cause to the natural world on this extraordinarily beautiful stretch of coastline.

“We are deeply concerned that the suggested mitigation and compensation would never balance the huge loss to biodiversity and the impacts on our protected sites and species. Whilst compensation sites can be vital to offset any habitat destruction, they cannot replace the higher value of long-established sites with a rich mosaic of species.

“At a time of climate and ecological emergency, we need to find truly sustainable solutions which do not add to the problem by destroying internationally and nationally-important wild places for nature.”

The proposed development borders RSPB Minsmere – a world famous nature reserve home to 6,000 species which would be badly affected if the development gets the green light.

Less than 10% of the UK is protected for nature by being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Sizewell C would destroy part of an important SSSI and make it even harder for the Government reach its commitment to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030.