Sizewell C Consultation

This is the last day to put in a response to EDF’s Sizewell C Stage 1 Consultation.  The consultation doesn’t allow for any debate on  whether we should have a new Nuclear power station at Sizewell.  It deals solely with the practicalities of  Sizewell C’s  construction and its impact on those of us who live in its path.

And there will be an impact, no two ways about itCurrently it looks like being an impact with very little benefit to us residents of Suffolk Coastal. 

Particularly  worrying  for Woodbridge residents would be the impact of a works Park & Ride and Lorry Park at Woods Lane. I’ve therefore sent EDF this response on behalf of all those who have raised concerns with me:

      Re: SIZEWELL C Stage 1 CONSULTATION

In responding to this consultation, I am writing as elected County Councillor for Woodbridge to raise concerns specific to my division. I am also responding more generally as Suffolk Lib Dem spokesman for Transport. I am restricting my comments to the period of construction as it is the impact of this that is specifically being consulted upon.

        Overall   These plans offer only the most cursory and non-holistic reference to the heritage nature of the Suffolk coastal landscape – and to the impact that the lengthy period of construction will have on both the landscape and the lifestyle that residents currently enjoy.

The benefits of Sizewell C will be to the country as a whole. It would seem inappropriate that the impact should be felt so disproportionately by the 0.2% of the population (124,000 people) who make up the population of Suffolk Coastal. The question that comes to mind (in the vernacular) is, “What’s in it for us?”

        Transport   At its peak the construction workforce is expected to be 5600 people, 34% of whom will commute. This will put nearly 2,000 more daily commuters on the overcrowded A12. Although much freight will be by rail/sea , EDF currently forecasts 100-300 more HGV deliveries (I read this as 200-600 HGV journeys) daily on the A12 in the years of peak construction. EDF would prefer to manage this via a lorry park at the Southern P&R.

Commuter traffic    EDF claims that the construction of North and South Park & Rides could ‘significantly reduce the amount of commuter traffic on local roads’ during the peak years of construction. This is not strictly accurate:  the best they are designed for is to ameliorate some of the excess that the construction of SizewellC will put upon our roads! There is no reference in the consultation to these P&Rs serving our local commuters.

And even within this limited definition of a ‘significant reduction’, the Park & Rides – wherever they are placed – will not ameliorate the increased levels of traffic arriving and departing from them.

In the case of Woodbridge, the proposed Southern P&R option C  is at the already busy roundabout at the A1152/A12 junction, north of the town.  It would therefore not ameliorate the increased levels of traffic that would need to pass Woodbridge.  At the same time a P&R there would add considerably to the congestion, pollution and rat-running that are already a problem here as traffic seeks to avoid the bottle-neck at the A1152/A12 junction.

Although the Southern P&R option C  would be on the A12, it would have a significant impact on  Woodbridge residents in terms of increased noise, light and environmental pollution – particularly for  those living in the Farlingaye ward .

It would also have an adverse impact on the 2000-odd students who attend Woodbridge’s Farlingaye High School. With a catchment area of 400sqm of Suffolk Coastal, and school bus access  directly from the A12 and close to the A1152 junction, congestion at peak times is likely to conflict with school drop-off and delivery.

Lorry Park  It is clear that EDF expects that most lorry traffic will be travelling northward to the site, past Woodbridge. A lorry park at Option C would exacerbate all the problems mentioned above, regarding commuter traffic.  Woodbridge would suffer the double whammy of both the increase in HGV traffic and the lorry park while gaining no identified benefit from either.

 Rail   The A1152 crosses the East Suffolk line at an open crossing at Melton. A recent upgrade in the service to hourly passenger trains is already increasing congestion at this point (and rat-running through Woodbridge). Sizewell C development proposes to transport significant amounts of construction materials by train which is to be welcomed. However it will further exacerbate crossing delays and congestion and add to the potential problems of rat-running through Woodbridge.

        Conclusion     The proposals for building Sizewell C will have a great impact on the Suffolk Coastal region. This is because they are reliant on one single north/south axis in both road and rail provision.   As yet it is far from clear that that EDF’s proposals fully recognize and allow for this impact: it seems instead as if the A12 is being seen as one giant corridor to Sizewell – with little concern for the communities that line it.

The strategic geographical position of Woodbridge, sandwiched between A12 and East Suffolk line, means that the impact might be felt most keenly by its 7500 inhabitants, particularly if the Southern P&R option C is decided upon. This would bring many disadvantages to our town without one single clear advantage.  There is no incentive or reason for us to support it.

I would recommend that, before the next consultation, EDF look again – and more closely – at significant investment in Rail improvements. That is, not only at increasing enhancements to the East Suffolk line, but also at building bridges at rail crossings to allow more freight to be moved by rail while reducing the impact on road crossing users.

As regards siting the Lorry Parks and Park and Rides, EDF should be looking at areas where there would be minimal disruption to and impact on communities AND landscape. This clearly rules out the current proposals for Southern P&R option C at Woodbridge

Finally, I am deeply disappointed that it is proposed  the residents of east Suffolk should bear such a high degree of inconvenience over so many years for the good of the nation at large without any substantive mention of a reasonable payback. We need bridges over the A12 where footpaths have been cut in two. We need bridges over the East Suffolk line, where commuters currently wait in traffic jams. We need decent public transport for huge swathes of the rural population.  All these needs could be addressed with little extra cost if EDF considered them as part of a holistic plan for the development of Sizewell C.

I hope you will take these comments back and consider them seriously in your ongoing deliberations

Yours sincerely    

Caroline Page

 

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Suffolk Highways Contract debacle

Suffolk County Council’s poorly-thought through divestment of their highway services has hit the rocks. Ten weeks to D-day and there’s no plan B.   In an embarrassed press-release  Suffolk County Council last week announced an Update on the Suffolk Highways Contract Tender Process

“Following a period of extensive and constructive discussion with Balfour Beatty Living Places, Suffolk County Council has not been able to confirm and clarify commitments made to the point where it can provisionally award the contract. It has therefore been decided that the procurement process will revert to the previous stage where Suffolk County Council can liaise with any, or all, of the bidders who submitted final tenders (including Balfour Beatty Living Places), before again identifying a preferred bidder.”

So after a year of  negotiation in the pursuit of ideology, Suffolk’s planned divestment of  highway maintenance and improvement works, winter gritting, street lighting, traffic signals and bridge to a private company is back to square 1 – only ten weeks before D-Day (ironically,  April 1).  Serious egg on face time!

And why did this happen? Alas, the  release is remarkably short on detail.

Yet at the time the preferred bidder was chosen a few weeks back, SCC were positively expansive. “ There is a risk that the defined timetable slips and that the contract cannot commence on 1 April 2013, they said confidingly. “This is a key date. Many of our existing contracts expire on this date, as does the County Council’s agency agreement with Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) for the provision of highways services… The democratic approval processes and mobilisation period have been planned to avoid this eventuality . 

(But not, alas, sufficiently for this eventuality to be avoided)

Now, speaking as a person of average common-sense, I don’t think  that at that point I’d have have put a document into the public domain  which  alerted the business world to the fact SCC  was putting all its eggs into a single basket – and a basket with a loose handle at that! Its hard to negotiate when your head’s in a noose. Yet  SCC –  generally the first to withhold information on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’ – went further,  and told the world of the associated risks in their planning:

..there is no “do nothing” option as from 1 April 2013. Current contracts expire on 31 March 2013 and will have reached their maximum term. Therefore a large part of the service would need to be re-procured, alongside seeking emergency extensions of existing contracts. This would present serious risks to service continuity, delivery and quality.  There is also a risk that any attempt to extend an existing contract, rather than to carry out a procurement exercise, might be challenged by other providers…

Gosh.

The LibDem and independent  group have asked SCC for speedy responses to the following questions as to this debacle

  • What happened since the Cabinet decision on the 11th Dec? What commitments weren’t confirmed, were they not outlined as part of the initial contract?
  • How much is it going to cost the County Council in interim arrangements?
  • What is the duration of the expected delay? When will the next preferred bidder be announced?
  • What is the impact on the staff at IBC now that the timetable has slipped?
  • What is the contingency plan now that contracts have reached their maximum term, will emergency extensions be required? What are the cost of these?
  • Do you envisage a serious risk to the continuity, delivery and quality of the highways service given this delay?
    and last, and possibly most importantly
  • Can SCC continue to be assured this way of proceeding is actually ‘best value’?

As yet we are not much the wiser – but it looks like interim arrangements will have to be made at least until September. And what happens in the meantime is -literally – anyone’s guess!
As a constituent of mine remarked, “This lot couldn’t organise a hen-party in a chicken farm!”

 

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Votes at 16: true democracy

Last week Parliament made history by supporting the LibDem motion to give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote .  At last. This is something we Lib Dems have been proposing since the last Millennium.

I can’t see why anyone finds this the slightest bit controversial. Surely if you are old enough to marry, join the army and to pay tax, you are old enough to vote on who can marry, when we fight and how much tax we pay?

Those  who argue that many young people ‘don’t know enough’ to vote, need only look around at their own peers.  No-one is making the case that people are ever too old to vote.

I’m certain that lowering the voting age would change politics for the better. If politicians have to appeal directly to 16 year olds as well as 46 and 66 year olds it will broaden their priorities.

Would the Suffolk Conservatives have scrapped the Explore young person’s travel card  two years ago  if the  cut impacted as fully on the ballot box as it did on young people’s lives?

I suspect not!

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Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge