National Infrastructure Planning (NIP) has submitted extensive requests for information on the cumulative effects of energy infrastructure on the east coast, to EDF-backed NNB Generation Company. The questions are an early stage of assessing the application for planning consent for Sizewell C, and they raise concerns over whether the cumulative effect of a number of major energy developments in the region have been fully assessed, following shortly after planning consent for the Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind farm was quashed because it did not consider the impact of onshore works alongside that for other projects.
Among over 2,000 questions put by NIP to EDF, and other bodies, re Sizewell C, it said Natural England “does not consider that a suitably robust assessment has been undertaken on cumulative impacts from all project elements on nationally designated sites (SSSIs) and their notified features.”
NIP questioned the plans for cable installation, saying that Natural England wanted a more robust assessment “of impacts from different aspects of the project, or of ‘in combination’ impacts between other projects”, referring to the cabling for two major offshore wind farms,East Anglia Two and East Anglia 1. It sought clarification on discussions with Natural England on how the cables will be routed through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and asked for updates on which periods of work on Sizewell C’s 9-12 year construction phase that would coincide with cable construction for the wind farms.
Connections were also a concern for Norfolk County Council, which had fears over reinforcement and new power lines in Norfolk and Suffolk. Suffolk County Council had additional concerns that“the full cumulative impacts of the existing and potential future projects in the East Suffolk area have not been adequately assessed” because recent extra projects had been put forward after assessments, including offshore wind projects, interconnector cables across the North Sea and an interconnector project to Kent.
Asking for better information about the cumulative effect and potential additions to the 400kV network, NIP asked for “further evidence and studies setting out the full implications of both Sizewell C and the planned/emerging offshore wind energy projects on the existing 400kV network across the two counties.”
Other questions about the cumulative effect of the suite of energy projects planned for the east coast and near-coast areas included concerns over issues as wide as ecological impacts and traffic management. The total effect of large projects on national labour markets was also questioned, with concerns focused on national projects including HS2 and other infrastructure, as well as projects on the east coast.
Written questions are a regular early stage of the examination procedure used by National Infrastructure Planning, which assesses applications for development consent for major infrastructure, but planning law blogger Angus Walker of BDB Pitmans said Sizewell C questions had “smashed the record” with over 2,000 questions. He said, “the first nuclear power DCO application was for Hinkley Point C in October 2011 and had just 17 questions in the first round. Those were the days. The second nuclear power DCO application was for Wylfa Newydd in June 2018 and had a record 1,006 questions, around 300 more than the previous record for any DCO application.”