Labour councillors are aghast at the latest proposals by EDF Energy to increase the number of HGV road deliveries made to Hinkley Point C by up to 250 a day while work continues on the project’s jetty. Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Labour Westover) said “Yet again it’s blatantly obvious that all this would have been solved by a By-Pass. All the tinkering with road junctions that has brought traffic chaos will mean little compared to the disruption, noise and air pollution brought by this latest increase. We have until 18th December now to get a proper workable and valuable set of mitigation proposals in place as I strongly suspect Somerset County Council won’t vote against it happening.”
Cllr Smedley has invited EDF, SCC and SDC to an urgent meeting to explain what is happening and to discuss what mitigation measures would be required by the Town if we were to agree to this.
Town Council ‘amazed at lack of consultation’
Town Clerk Alan Hurford wrote “Given the impact of a possible 50% increase in HGV movements I am amazed that there has to date been no formal notification and no consultation with the Town Council. The HGV routes have a daily impact on the town and this can only exasperate. You will be aware that BTC were major contributors to traffic issues throughout the Inquiry and would expect to be heard before any decision is taken on this current proposal. “
EDF Energy is proposing to put several million pounds of extra funding into measures to mitigate the extra HGV movements. This would, they say, help maintain roads, contribute to the Somerset County Council’s traffic control centre, and create more walking and cycling routes. The extra funding could also support construction of the long-awaited Colley Lane Southern Access Road which is due to be decided by Somerset County Council later this month.
EDF says ‘Temporary measures….’
David Eccles, EDF Energy’s head of stakeholder engagement for Hinkley Point C, said: “We continue to work with the local authorities to minimise impact of the Hinkley Point C project. Our focus remains to maximise the use of deliveries to site by sea, but for a temporary period we need to increase our road deliveries. We have already delivered much of an agreed £20 million of local road improvements and if this proposal is accepted, additional funds will be invested into the local road network. We will continue to talk and listen to local businesses and communities about traffic and consider ways in which affected residents could be helped during the temporary period.”
County Labour Leader’s anger
But the EDF announcement has led to an angry outburst from Somerset County Labour Group Leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Labour, Bridgwater South) who said “I have been saying this day would come for years, but the 50% increase is a shock. The first I heard about this was at a briefing on Friday afternoon. In simple terms EDFe want to increase the number of lorry movements on our roads by more than 100,000 in just 21 months, what community benefit do the residents of Bridgwater get? Nothing that I can see, and this is wrong in my opinion. There will be mitigation for our town but limited to a few bits of road works, double glazing for all homes on both transport routes (this has been a request for years, but always told not an option), maintenance that should be funded by EDF anyway, a little business support, a traffic officer to help keep the busier roads running, a bit more road sweeping, some air monitoring, some variable messaging screens (that we have been asking for, for a few years) and nothing directly for the people of our town who will be the ones to suffer, I believe that we need something else to compensate for the additional 250 lorry movements a day for 21 months, that works out to more than 100,000 movements on top of those already agreed, an increase of 50%. Why does the offer not include some form of community benefit? What is in this mitigation for all those people that will take longer to cross our town, take longer to get from the motorway (either end) to their home? I do not agree with the proposed mitigation package, if we are going to have to agree this, then we want to see something to mitigate the congestion and impact, up to 250 lorry movements a day, 6 days a week will have on my town. I am not and cannot agree to this proposal, because if we do, the people in our town will rightly think we are not on their side. We need time to seek thoughts and comments from our communities. Thoughts for mitigation (just off the top of my head) By-Pass for Bridgwater, Cycle and pedestrian safety enhancements, Concessionary bus fares for old and young, Bridgwater town enhancements.”
A spokesperson at Somerset County Council, said: “We recognise it is in all our interests for the Hinkley Point C project to progress. However, we must also ensure that the impacts of the proposal on local communities are addressed.”
Sedgemoor must ‘remain supportive of EDF project’
Councillor Peter Downing (Con, Cheddar) Sedgemoor District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Infrastructure said: “We remain supportive of the EDF Energy project to build Hinkley Point C, recognising its national significance and the economic benefit to Sedgemoor and the wider South West. We would regard with concern the additional impact on an already stretched highways infrastructure of any increase in road traffic but would welcome the prospect of funding to mitigate the effect on our businesses and communities. We will continue to work with EDF Energy to identify the way forward.”
Sedgemoor Labour ‘such a request has consequences’
Sedgemoor Labour Group Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Labour, Victoria) said “The EDF request to increase the number of HGV movements by up to 250 a day, while work continues on the project’s jetty has been something that the Council has anticipated, due to the delay in getting the Jetty operational. However such a request does have consequences for the people of Bridgwater, in terms of the number of extra HGV movements through Bridgwater. Such a request does go outside the national Development Consent Order. Even though the temporary increase, until the end of September 2019, could mean 500 HGV movements or 250 deliveries a day in any given quarter, it is important that the appropriate mitigation is in place, for the people of Bridgwater”
Mick then went on to say: “the agreement to allow this request, will need to make sure that the appropriate air and noise monitoring is in place and that residents on the main corridors of traffic movements, from both Junction 23 and 24 and through Bridgwater will have access to the Double Glazing scheme, offered to residents in Cannington. We will also argue the case for funding to be made available for the pedestrian and cycle route, known as the Celebration Mile from the Railway Station to the Docks. The Celebration Mile is within the Bridgwater Vision and Local Plan for Sedgemoor District Council.”
County Councillors now have until 18th December to make representations to the Portfolio Holder Cllr David Hall (Con, Bridgwater East).
Renewed calls for By-Pass
Bridgwater Town Council Transport spokesman Cllr Tony Heywood (Labour, Eastover) said “I talk to Bridgwater residents who find it hard to understand why EDF weren’t forced to provide a by-pass as part of the original deal. EDF carried out “complicated traffic modelling”, which proved that a by-pass wasn’t necessary. However, an increase of 50% in traffic movements would suggest that their studies were based on a serious underestimate of the actual numbers. Of course, EDF will say this is only a temporary measure. I say this is probably the first of many such occasions. There is no doubt that the real, long-term solution to Bridgwater’s traffic problems is a bypass, which would ensure that vehicles are coming “to” Bridgwater, rather than passing “through” Bridgwater. EDF should reconsider this as option. They should see it as a wonderful opportunity of leaving a lasting legacy to the town and a real contribution to the lives of the people of Bridgwater.”