Press Release – 5 May, 2020
Now is not the time for Maldon District Council to be considering whether to permit the Chinese nuclear developer, CGN, to undertake extensive site investigations on the Dengie Peninsula that could prepare the ground for the building of a new nuclear power station. The Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) argues that it is undemocratic and wrong to be giving the go-ahead for a project which is not needed, on a site not yet approved, at a time when the whole country is distracted by the coronavirus emergency.
Many people think a new nuclear power station at Bradwell is a done deal already – it really is not. Contrary to what is in the glossy brochures recently distributed to households around the Blackwater, the site is not even a Government approved site, merely identified as a ‘potentially suitable’ site for deployment of a nuclear power station by 2025, well before development could conceivably begin.
Similarly, it is highly questionable that there is an urgent national demand for more nuclear electricity ‘in order to keep the lights on’. In fact, annual UK electricity demand has fallen by 16% in the decade up to 2019, not risen by 15% as the Government had predicted. So, clearly the national review of energy policy currently being conducted is urgently needed, taking on board the radical changes in how carbon neutral electricity can be produced much more cheaply than nuclear, and without leaving its toxic legacy.
Yet, even before the Government became preoccupied with Brexit and Covid-19, the review process had stalled.
Planning Permission for the site investigations should, therefore, not be considered until and unless the national policy can be updated – especially as it may well prove a new nuclear power station is not needed at all. Clearly, the Chinese company, CGN, is exerting enormous pressure for the project to proceed ‘at pace’ and is consulting on its proposals for the eventual design of the proposed new power station (the deadline for comments is 1 July). At the same time the Environment Agency (EA) is consulting (until 20 June) on the permits that will be necessary for the site investigations to go ahead and Maldon’s decision ought not to be taken without the benefit of the EA’s deliberations.
The decision on the site investigations is likely to be taken at a time when, owing to the coronavirus, normal meetings of the Maldon District Council with public involvement are not possible, so normal democratic processes do not apply. A decision on an issue so significant as this should not be confined to a Planning Director advised by three members of the Council. BANNG, therefore urges Maldon District Council to ensure the decision is suspended, at least until the Council can properly meet.
The Council has received a massive number of public comments, 120 in total, of which 118 have objected and none supported the proposal. In its comments on the Planning Application, BANNG states that ‘it is premature to grant permission for ground investigations for a power station that is unlikely to be justified and on a site that may well not be designated’.
On this basis, BANNG believes, the only just and democratic decision the Council should make is to refuse the application outright. It could otherwise decide to defer a decision until such time as the Government can confirm if a new nuclear power station is, in fact, still needed and, if so, go on to confirm whether another risky coastal site in the South East of England is politically and geographically the best place to put it.
Meanwhile, BANNG believes it is important for members of the public to respond to these consultations and urges them to do so. Silence will always be assumed to be approval or contentment – however far from the truth this might be, and regardless of the fact so many households have much else to deal with during lockdown.