At a specially called meeting of Bridgwater Town Council members last night to discuss the proposed ‘worker uplift’ with EDF, council members restated their insistence that the Hinkley C project must have consequential benefits, mitigate where unforeseen changes were made and come out of it with a legacy project for the community. The meeting was called by the Town Council’s energy spokesman Cllr Leigh Redman amid fears of lack of consultation by the energy giant. As a result Town Council will co-ordinate a response with Sedgemoor District Council to the changes which will see a major increase in the number of workers on site at peak and an inevitable pressure on private rented accommodation at the same time.
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said ““Despite EDF claiming that the dramatic worker uplift is nota divergence from the original DCO and that they don’t need to consult, we note that it is and that they have. This is due to the diligent work of town council’s nuclear energy watchdog Cllr Redman. As a result we were able to talk directly to them last night. At this meeting we clearly ascertained that as a consequence of these changes there will be a major impact on the private rented sector in the area which has already been under pressure through accommodation grabs and cluttered street scenes. Town Council restated our view that we want to work with them to minimise the impact of these changes on our residents and to maximise the consequential benefit and come out of this with a legacy project. Our aim is to work with Sedgemoor District Council to determine an appropriate EDF community mitigation package on the lines of what we achieved the last time EDF unexpectedly changed their plans with the increased number of HGV movements when the Jetty completion was delayed. The plans do allow for more local employment and we welcome this but people mustn’t be fooled when they hear talk of a ‘drive towork’ zone for home based workers as this is of course a 90 minute drive andthat can include Plymouth, Barnstaple, Gloucester, Swindon and Newport. We further accept that there are great benefits for education, training, apprenticeships, supply chain and so on but we have always said that the disruption caused by thisproject mustn’t outweigh it’s long term benefit. This is why we want people tosee, appreciate and realise a genuine legacy project come out of it. We have set up a meeting for next week with Sedgemoor and Town to take this forward.”
Keeping a Watchful Eye
Councillor Leigh Redman (Hamp, Labour) is the Town council’s spokesman for Energy and his brief is to keep a watchful eye on EDF developments. It was his early warnings that brought the latest chanegs to the Council’s attention. Leigh says “I am calling for the Councils and stakeholders to join me in demanding EDFe to move away from their rush job to increase limits on workers living in Bridgwater by 300%, Give residents & Bridgwater town council the opportunity to understand the proposal, consult in a meaningful way and discuss mitigation. For weeks I have known that EDF Energy (EDFe) want more people on site to build their power station. Last week I attended a meeting organised by EDFe where for the first time I was shown some detail, I called for them to consult properly and give the residents of Bridgwater the time and opportunity to be heard. At the meeting EDFe, the main people behind the Hinkley C development, have made clear the size of their increase, the current number allowed on site as set out in the Development Consent Order (DCO) is 5500 at peak, they propose to increase this to 8600.
In the DCO it is clear that there will be two types of construction workers: home-based workers, who will commute to and from work on a daily basis from their home address; and non-home-based workers who cannot feasibly commute to and from work on a daily basis from their home address and will, therefore, require temporary accommodation in the vicinity of the HPC site.
The split of home-based and non-home-based workers is expected to change over the course of the construction period as the nature of the construction evolves. It is anticipated that there will be a higher proportion of home-based workers at the outset, which will reduce as the project moves towards peak construction and will increase again towards completion as the permanent operational workforce grows, all of whom will most likely live in the area.
For the purpose of local, the DCO sets a travel time of 90mins each way. The non-home-based numbers that are allowed in Bridgwater is currently set to 420 in the DCO and EDFe propose to increase this to 1560 plus the 1000 already in the Bridgwater accommodation campus.
The home-based numbers that are allowed in Bridgwater is currently set to 310 and EDFe propose to increase this to 1630.
Just a rough calculation shows that EDFe are asking for Bridgwater to absorb an increase of more than 300%, that is a massive jump from current limit of 730 to 3,190 workers living in Bridgwater!”
Not a minor increase
Cllr Redman explained further “This is not a minor increase, this is a major change and redistribution so that these changes place a disproportionate burden on Bridgwater and they want to minimise debate!
They have indicated they think this is a non-material decision, so do not need to consult and they can increase the numbers without listening to the community, but they are choosing to engage to be nice.
To paraphrase their spokesman, “the impact of the new numbers on Bridgwater will be minimal, mainly due to the great way SDC has used the previous funds to create nearly 4000 bed spaces to the area”.
They are going to generate topic papers for Transport review group (TRG) and socio-economic advisory group (SEAG) for a decision, membership of these is limited and does not include any Town council representation, membership limited to main stakeholders.
They want to take the decision in March. Currently the only Communications proposed, they plan to have an online platform to explain things, from 8th Feb, they will, due to Covid hold 2 virtual drop in sessions to allow people to virtually ask questions, 9th Feb in the morning and 11th Feb in the afternoon.
Community Must Benefit
Cllr Redman summed up “To be clear, I am not saying we should not allow the increase, I am asking EDFe to hold a reasonable consultation and discuss mitigation, let Bridgwater and surrounding areas understand what is proposed and what mitigation may be needed.
I am happy to admit that EDFe have helped fund some amazing things in Bridgwater and surrounding areas, many of our community are benefiting from the biggest infrastructure development this country has seen, but there are many who cant afford to rent locally, many that are struggling and I feel EDFe are trying to steam roller this massive uplift with minimal consultation or debate.
I ask is it right that estate agents don’t put a fixed price on rental properties, the new way is to tell prospective renters that the estimated rental will be £??? What are you willing to pay, in and around Bridgwater you are being asked to bid to rent a home, there is a shortage NOW, people are having to bid huge uplifts, before you shout at me, I agree that is business, but is it fair that the high salaries of some limit the opportunities for others?
If there are a thousand extra families looking, what will that do to the housing market in Bridgwater? And worse still what about when all these houses go back on the market as the build completes?
I am calling for the Councils and stakeholders to join me in demanding EDFe to move away from their rush job to increase limits on workers living in Bridgwater by 300%, Give residents & Bridgwater town council the opportunity to understand the proposal, consult in a meaningful way and discuss mitigation.”