The new Sizewell C evidence plan shows how future large-scale developments can put environmental protection at the heart of their plans.
The first terrestrial evidence plan, drawn up by EDF Energy in consultation with relevant bodies and approved by Natural England, sets out the information that the company will gather to inform a Habitat Regulations Assessment of its proposed new nuclear power station in Suffolk.
The location lies close to internationally-important wetland, heathland and marine habitats, which are home to a number of protected species such as the bittern, marsh harrier and red throated diver.
Unveiled by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2012, evidence plans are available for use by applicants of nationally significant infrastructure projects in England, in agreement with the relevant statutory nature conservation bodies (SNCB).
Although evidence plans have been employed for a number of off-shore developments, Sizewell C is the first land-based plan to have been prepared.
- identifies the potential environmental effects of Sizewell C on European protected sites
- is designed to ensure that evidence gathering targets areas of potential effects
- describes the types and nature of evidence that need to be provided
- sets an indicative programme of workshops with technical stakeholders for more detailed consideration of evidence requirements and impact assessment methods
- defines the roles, responsibilities and working arrangements of EDF Energy and participating technical stakeholders
- sets out an approach for in-combination assessment to consider the effects of Sizewell C in combination with other plans and projects
Natural England’s Director of Sustainable Development, Rob Cooke, said: “By making it easier for developers to incorporate environmental protection into their designs, evidence plans such as this mean our important habitats are properly looked after while large-scale projects can proceed more smoothly.”
EDF Energy prepared the evidence plan in consultation with Natural England (as lead SNCB), the Environment Agency, Suffolk Coastal District Council, Suffolk County Council, the RSPB and Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Defra’s Major Infrastructure and Environment Unit facilitated the evidence plan process and the Planning Inspectorate had a watching brief.
Stephen Walls, head of the Sizewell C project, said: “This has been a constructive process which has provided clarity for the proposed development of Sizewell C and will help map out environmental considerations going forward.”
The evidence plan process for Sizewell C will end when EDF Energy submits its application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate and its applications for operational-phase environmental permits to the Environment Agency.
The Sizewell C evidence plan is one of a number of ways that Natural England is seeking to improve its planning and licensing services for customers. Progress on these aims is set out in our latest improvement plan, published last week.