Why I cannot support Sizewell C

Suffolk County Council submitted a response to the deeply disappointing Sizewell Stage 4 consultation, as did Woodbridge’s Town Council. These are my concerns,  written specifically as Woodbridge County Councillor – and as LibDem Green and Independent group county councillor representing a division affected by the development

First and foremost I deplore that the consultation does little to answer – or even ameliorate – concerns that were raised by the many respondents to the stage 3 consultation. It is as if the concerns and suggestions of the people of Suffolk did not exist.

Secondly,  I would query why we are still even considering building Sizewell C?  It is intended that Suffolk  will  be supplying about 30% of the UK’s electricity – but only about 7% of UK electricity will come from Sizewell C, the rest will be offshore. Suffolk contains 1.4% of the UK’s population. The impact of the building – let alone the running – of Sizewell C will have a 100% impact on the people of Suffolk coastal. This impact is largely negative.

We are told that the benefits of Sizewell C will bring £100m annually to Suffolk.  But the tourist benefit of the Suffolk Coastal AONB  and coastal heaths, and of the natural environment of countryside around  is £240m annually– on all of which Sizewell C will have an adverse impact via a range of issues such as loss of coastal paths, unsympathetic design, the 10-12 year impact of building works, and all the additional traffic. This does not make economic sense.

Thirdly,  the financial case for  nuclear power no longer adds up. EDF will be overcharging UK consumers for electricity from Sizewell for the next 35 years:  prices of offshore wind-generated power, per KWhr, without any subsidy, are less than half what EDF is being guaranteed. Continue reading Why I cannot support Sizewell C

More bus cuts devastate the Woodbridge community

Sudden shocking level of cuts to bus services in Woodbridge and beyond demonstrate how completely a privatised model of bus service has failed us country dwellers. Private companies think of shareholder, not of passenger need, and by law the county council can only subsidise services that do not make a profit.

County’s recent decisions to stop funding all roadside bus timetables and refusal to accept bus passes on “on-demand” replacements has added to the confusion and shock of the vulnerable, elderly and disabled people who are most affected.

Young people travelling to college on the Sudbourne – Ipswich 71 (cut from November 2019) have no alternative.

The fast and efficient 800 park and ride extension to Rendlesham vanished last week with three weeks notice. First had never advertised this service on-bus although Woodbridge is crying out for means to take visitor parking offstreet (and I had told First so).

At the same time, cuts and amendations to the 64 bus route have left teachers unable to reach school, disabled people in Peterhouse without access to services, workers in Ipswich with no bus home after 6pm, and no chance of evening hospital visiting by bus at all. It is truly terrible.

We are told by First that passenger numbers do not add up. I am personally reliant on buses, and this has not been my experience. I have also been told that First didn’t count bus pass holders. They are paid for them.

There is little point in councils announcing climate emergency if it is not translated into sustainable travel.

I am calling on  the people of iWoodbridge, Martlesham, Melton and other affected parishes to join me in protesting these damaging decisions by signing this petition .

I am calling on  the parish representatives Woodbridge, Martlesham, Melton to join me in protesting these damaging decisions to First, the council and our MP.

And I also call on everyone to reject our national broken model of bus transport

 

Melton Hill – not only how but who?

Looking at Melton Hill – or as Woodbridge residents have taken to calling it, the Cheese Wedges – it is hard for the outside viewer to disentangle the intentions of the developer, what with their sudden last-minute appeal on the second application AND this simultaneous  third application.

Firstly, I think it is perfectly reasonable that  developer’s intentions be viewed with suspicion.  Their first application promised 32/33 ‘affordable’ units and was withdrawn a year ago to be replaced with a further application on the spurious grounds that Active Urban  ‘had become aware of the ability to seek to claim Vacant Building Credit’. This, they claimed, would ‘legitimately reduce the level of affordable housing’ to 11 units because ‘AUWL have concerns about the scheme’s viability’ in ’this brownfield site.’

This is pretty cynical, bearing in mind that Melton Hill was vacated for this development.  It was working offices up till that moment.

Active Urban now say the site is too expensive – but this seems pretty par for the development course doesn’t it? It is a far from unusual justification of developers when they do not wish to build affordable housing.

The issue is therefore surely not whether Suffolk Coastal might have been too greedy in asking the price they did for the site – after all, Active Urban didn’t HAVE to offer for it – but that Suffolk Coastal made such a curious choice in seeking to monetise a publicly owned site for what seems such relatively small short-term gain.  A real case of pawning the family silver to pay for the housekeeping, instead of investing it in long-term benefits for the people who owned it – us.

As I have suggested before, making the site a Community Land Trust, providing housing at social rent – and maybe some housing that was shared-ownership, though never sold – would have been a wonderful and useful legacy for a District Council that had failed so dismally to provide the housing that local residents so clearly need. (See several blog pieces I have written to this effect over the last couple of years).

Some are maintaining that the third application has restored the status quo in terms of affordable housing?  Not quite.  The unit numbers may be the same but there are now 12.5% fewer bedrooms for affordable housing than there were on the first application. What is now on offer is a mere 8 x 1 bedroom flats for social rent and 24 flats (1 and 2 bedrooms) for intermediate housing – which is a much vaguer concept. The number, type, size and tenure are not in accordance with the Local Plan.

One cannot help but note that the  Growth and Infrastructure Act, introduced in 2013 to reduce the red tape that current governments are too willing to claim hampers growth, allows developers to renegotiate ‘economically unviable’ section 106 agreements  on stalled housing developments.  This of course makes it advantageous for the developer to feel stalled. It is recognised that this Act has a particular impact on affordable housing provision.

Another concern I have is the for-profit element in the affordable housing. The stated provider is Sage Housing – a for-profit organisation, majority-owned by the US real estate giant Blackstone. (You can find articles in the FT about these funds which aim to return 8% to investors at the expense of those who are in need of affordable homes). Sage finances  section106 agreements but then contracts out the day to day running of the affordable units. Their shared ownership plans seem to require a minimum 40% share to be acquired at market value (and sometimes 75%) which seems a far cry from the affordable needs of local people who will have to rent on top of that amount plus fees plus a management charge for the use of common areas.

We need to question whether Active Urban are behaving as if they are an appropriate developer for this site. I think the new East Suffolk council should look closely at the mess and confusion they have inherited, and consider again what might be the best way forward for the people of this area