BANNG stalwart and Maldon Society spokesperson Judy Lea writes to Maldon District Council
I gather that, understandably, the approval process for planning applications has been changed because of the many limitations resulting from combatting the Corona virus. I’m told that you and three members now have the power to determine all the applications that come in? Perhaps you could please just clarify how the members are actually chosen for these?
Since the bulk of the applications at the moment are for domestic buildings and minor alterations to larger housing schemes already approved in principle, this is obviously a good way to keep things going and has considerable merit. However, there is a decision pending on the ground development works for Bradwell B (application 20/00157) which it would be wholly undemocratic to process in the same way.
I witnessed the decision making on the first lot of investigative works there, since completed, and know there will be a strong pull to define this later application solely on what is presented. Yet even within this narrow definition, the drilling, extensive soil movement, amount of concrete to be laid, effect on wildlife and potentially the water table, have all made this a contentious application in its own right. It is important all shades of opinion are properly represented (including the views of the nearest residents who happen to live across the water and therefore in a different District, which was shamefully handled last time). Opponents of the application should be allowed to voice their objections and importantly to hear the debate. Even as it is, solely on its own merits, the right thing to do would be to defer a decision on this particular application until the virus restrictions are lifted.
However, we all know this differs hugely from normal applications, because it literally lays the ground for the BRB station to follow.
I have seen MDC often use the excuse that the decision on the station is not theirs to make, it is part of national infrastructure determined by central government. However, MDC is currently accepting £15k a month in its role as a conduit for public consultation. Now is the time for that money to be truly earned.
BRB will represent perhaps the biggest disturbance caused by development in the District for many years, dwarfing even the LDP because of its location on the Dengie not only impacting on the estuary with its warm chemically treated water, but also causing a great amount of materials etc to travel through the entire length of the peninsula via Danbury/Maldon or further south off the A130. For several years it will swell the number of residents near a small village by thousands of workers. Surely MDC owes all its residents the right to ask now (before the ground investigations are approved) that the national government properly states the case as to why the station is needed at all, and why it has to be here? This has not been done to date, and certainly not stated to Maldon District ratepayers and residents.
The BRB context is based on government data from 2005, yet so much has changed in terms of renewables, battery storage, etc and notably the 20% decline in UK electricity use since 2000 thanks largely to energy efficiency measures such as LED lights and insulation. The daily government updates on Coronavirus keep stating that government policy will follow the science and proven statistics. If this is true for a passing disease, how much more so for this permanent and (with changing sea levels) potentially dangerous fixture, also involving billions of the public’s pounds? The decision on Bradwell was a political decision, made to favour trade with a foreign government, and not a scientific one. Its economic case has yet to be made public.
It is especially important this Application be suspended as the Public Consultations on BRB have in reality been abandoned. The online tools suggested are no substitute for the ability to study the physical displays, ask questions and receive a direct answer, as happened at the only two live consultations held so far out of the fifteen planned. Not everyone can get online. Similarly, people who don’t read the local paper will not be aware of the opportunity to phone in. If BRB’s return date for consultation can be put off till July, when restrictions might well still be in place – certainly for the vulnerable – why not longer so the exhibitions can be rearranged?
The Maldon Society feel strongly that these points must be taken into account as would be the case within any democratic culture for a proposal that has such potential to adversely affect so many lives and the capability to torture the countryside and marine environment in ways we might not yet be aware of, without sufficient and meaningful consultations with interested groups and residents.
The MDC would be ill-advised to deal with this application in any manner that is not seen as truly democratic and as far reaching as possible. Criticism of the local authority would be justified if this particular application were to be favourably determined within the temporary decision framework now in place.
All these points need to be considered and we would strongly recommend that the decision on the ground investigations is deferred. An agreement of the application is pre-emptive of the acceptance of the whole concept of a nuclear plant at this site.
At the very least the government must present its case for BRB to us, and we have the right to openly consider what this means for us.
Judy Lea for the Maldon Society