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The government’s back-down on key aspects of fracking because of campaigning in distant Lancashire may turn out to be very close indeed to the big issue in Suffolk and Sizewell.

Crucial is a new all-party consensus to change the fracking bill to ban all and any fracking in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Suffolk Coastal, up, down and around Sizewell nuclear power ‘park’ is all AONB (now the same planning status as National Parks) and SSSIs, let alone European and international protected sites.

The environmental reasons against fracking are above and below ground - lorries, big construction, land and water contamination, in effect industrialisation, and fear of big events - earthquakes and geology movement. What’s so different about the proposed Sizewell C & D? Same here about the big new nukes, except you can’t fill the holes in afterwards because they will have nuclear waste in them, the land above remains contaminated for decades, and the big ‘event’, a nuclear accident, if it happened, is at land level.

The political reasons are clear: people’s rights to quiet lives, enjoyment of their property (and its sale value) and maybe also insurance problems. And disruption of the special landscape, the tourist economy dependent on it and agriculture.

Quick lessons can be drawn: if you kick up enough fuss about real environmental problems, politicians do have to respond. Second, energy politicians, planners and investors do get things wrong and don’t do joined up thinking. What we have in Britain is an energy mess, not an energy strategy, and it’s a dangerous and environmentally damaging mess too.

Third lesson is not Lancashire but the London to North West HS2 railway. Quietly government has conceded compensation for noise - and maybe more - for folk living 100 meters away while the works are carried out. Not much, or anything like enough, you might think, but it’s early days here too. Nevertheless, the principle of compensation for construction blight has been established on a big national infrastructure. For Sizewell C & D, and the waste stores etc, it may be as much as 15 years on the designated lorry routes, and be assured, that awesome compensation potential should come to rest not on taxpayers or home energy bills but on the polluter, under European law.

So why do C&D when there are and will be perfectly workable and less expensive and damaging alternatives ?

Regan Scott

Category: Local Letters