Roy Pumfrey 2
Roy Pumfrey ... '50% increase in workers is bound to have an impact on the local area.'

OPINION: Extra workers at Hinkley C will lead to housing and traffic issues

WHAT a bad week for EdeF in general and the prospects for Hinkley C (HPC) in particular, writes Roy Pumfrey.

On Monday, EdeF’s share price on the French Stock Exchange collapsed. The cause? EdeF’s plan for the reorganisation of its operations in France had to go to the EU. Brussels gave it the thumbs down and the shares slumped by 15%.

Things got even worse on Wednesday. After years of EdeF locally insisting that everything at HPC was hunky dory, at last Paris revealed the truth.

Another £500million on the cost, taking it to an even more eye watering £23billion. As for the date of completion, that’s slipped by six months to June 2026. Both of these figures can only get worse for EdeF  and HPC with delays due to Covid-19 still to really impact. Only the most ‘essential’ work at HPC has continued through the pandemic.

Thursday saw EdeF reveal, as a last desperate throw of the dice, its intention to increase the numbers of HPC workers. At a special briefing, with no papers in advance, EdeF announced its intention to increase the number of workers at HPC from 5,600 to 8,500. That’s a 50% increase.

While Covid may have made things worse, it was last February that EdeF attended a Stogursey Parish Council meeting to admit that more HPC workers than the 5,600 anticipated were in the offing. Coy about the exact number, the figure of at least 1,000 more wasn’t denied.

This 50% increase is bound to have an impact on the ‘local’ area. Even EdeF admitted at the briefing that demand for local accommodation will outstrip supply. The HPC hostels are already full.

Two ideas from EdeF show they’re clutching at straw. Having speculative purchasers hoover up lots of new houses as buy-to-let for HPC renters should go down like a lead balloon with local people desperate for a new home. Similarly, landlords giving long standing tenants notice so they can create HMOs for multiple HPC workers should be blown a hearty raspberry.

As for the traffic, EdeF claims there will be no more buses, just fuller ones. But remember what traffic in Bridgwater was like before Covid turned the rush hour into a trickle? Yes, regularly gridlocked on the Taunton Road and from the east on the Bristol Road, as I recall.

Proof that EdeF’s definition of ‘local’ workers – remember that means anyone 90 minutes or less drive time from a P&R – will mean more traffic is their stated intention to develop a P&R at the Taunton M5 junction.

Although some workers made redundant through C-19 may be looking for HPC jobs, it’s hard to know how 2,900 HPC vacancies will impact on the local job market. The idea that large numbers of sadly redundant retail and hospitality workers can be trained as highly skilled steel fabricators in next to no time is incredible.

How long will these ‘Gold Rush Economy’ jobs last? EdeF talks about peak numbers in late 2022/early 2023. If they manage to complete HPC by 2026, and it’s a big ‘if’, the number of workers will go off the edge of a cliff from 8,500 to just the 900 permanent staff in just over three years.

As for the impact on the quality and quantity of HPC site work, there is no guarantee that throwing more bodies at the task will mean quicker or better quality work. When I put students on Work Experience, I asked a farmer if he would take extra students. He replied, “A boy’s a boy, two boys is half a boy and three boys is worse than no boys at all!”

 

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