The building of a third nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast could be forced through as part of a major Government shake-up of the planning system, environmental campaigners warned last night.
A White Paper is set to be released by the Government next week which is expected to outline plans to overhaul the planning process for new developments.
The Government is likely to publish eight national statements of policy – relating to nuclear power plants, nuclear waste disposal plants, airports, motorways, waste incinerators, wind farms, ports and reservoirs – which will give the green light to site-specific projects considered to be of national importance.
Friends of the Earth said the statements will clear the way for up to 10 nuclear power plants including a third reactor at Sizewell in Suffolk – Sizewell C.
Hugh Ellis, Friends of the Earth planning advisor, said: “The planning White Paper will give the green light to massive new developments while stripping away opportunities for affected communities or the wider public to input on the decisions.
“This is policy-making at its worst. It will destroy local communities and exacerbate climate change. The Government must rethink its proposals and introduce a planning system that allows people a say on decisions that affect them.”
The potential move has also been opposed by the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign.
Charles Barnett, chairman of the campaign, said: “Any move by the government to reduce or actually stop local public opinion about a planning application for a new nuclear power station is abhorrent to every right-minded person who is a democrat.”
A spokesperson for British Energy, which owns Sizewell B, said: “There’s no desire to push this through without consultation. It’s more about streamlining the planning process so we are balancing the national need with the local need.”
Friends of the Earth also warned the White Paper will clear the way for an underground dump for long-lived nuclear waste, which could possibly be located in Essex or Norfolk, motorway expansions, incinerators, out-of-town supermarkets and five airport expansions, which would include a second runway at Stansted.
Brian Ross, from Stop Stansted Expansion, said: “The government’s intention to marginalise public involvement and participation in the planning process comes as no surprise.
“There is no justification whatsoever for transferring the responsibility for major planning decisions from local government to an unelected quango. The planning system isn’t broke and doesn’t need fixing.”
A spokesman for Stansted Airport said it always seeks to work within the planning framework the government sees fit.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government, which is in charge of the White Paper, said the Government did not recognise the claims.
“They are wrong and nothing more than ill-informed scaremongering about a White Paper that has not even been published yet,” he said. “Our proposals will be published shortly and people should wait and judge us on the facts.”
By Kate Scotter
17 May 2007