NEWS that EDF Energy plan to employ 3,000 extra workers at Hinkley C has caused alarm among Bridgwater town councillors.
At a specially-convened meeting at the end of last week they called for the company to hold a proper consultation over the consequences for the housing market of a massive influx of workers.
And they want to work with Sedgemoor council to ensure the energy giant provides for a ‘legacy project’ which will benefit the district for years to come.
Bridgwater’s Mayor, Cllr Leigh Redman, said: “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 and 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 5,500 at peak, they propose to increase this to 8,600.
“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 90 minutes 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 1,560 plus the 1,000 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 1,630.
“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 went on: “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 4,000 bed spaces to the area’.
“They are going to generate topic papers for the Transport review group (TRG) and Socio-Economic Advisory Group (SEAG) for a decision. But membership of these is limited and does not include any town council representation and is limited to main stakeholders.
“They want to take the decision in March. Currently the only communications proposed is an online platform to explain things plus two virtual drop-in sessions to allow people to virtually ask questions on Tuesday, February 9 in the morning and Thursday, February 11 in the afternoon.
Community Must Benefit
“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 county has seen, but there are many who can’t afford to rent locally, many that are struggling and I feel EDFe are trying to steamroller this massive uplift with minimal consultation or debate.”
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 ask is it right that estate agents don’t put a fixed price on rental properties? 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. 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.”