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Sizewell C consultation – my response

NO “mitigation” or “compensation” could mitigate or compensate for the permanent impact of this road-led strategy on Suffolk landscape and way of life

Suffolk County Council submitted a response to this Stage 3 consultation, as did Woodbridge’s Town Council. This is mine, written specifically as Woodbridge County Councillor – and as LibDem Green and Independent group county councillor representing a Suffolk Coastal division

My concerns are both general and specific.Putting to one side the question of whether the development of Sizewell is still desirable or economic, I wish to raise concerns about the following overarching issues about this Stage 3 pre-Application:

  1. The inexplicable decision to favour a road-led strategy for development over both sea and rail. This change to the narrative of previous schemes is in no way explained or explicable. Indeed, the complete fatuity of plans which eschew a marine-led strategy because of “damage to the marine environment” yet which trample over an AONB takes some beating. Such a strategy is not green. It damages a vital resource for Suffolk Coastal – the age-old countryside it relies on for income. It is not convenient – for us, the residents of Suffolk Coastal. Using Suffolk roads is clearly the cheapest and most convenient option for the developers.  What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  2. The adverse impact of a road-led strategy is not only on the area around Sizewell, but on all the feeder roads in Suffolk Coastal, and the communities they serve. The impact of traffic displaced by significant HGV traffic on the A12 onto rural routes will affect all rural communities in the path. What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  3. Despite the damage to the surrounding area  – an area which brings Suffolk Coastal its most significant longterm income  (from tourism) because of this choice of a road-led strategy – we gather it will still be necessary for you to build a jetty to bring heavy machinery in by sea. So what price “protecting the marine environment”?
  4.  All this being so, what we appear to see is the wanton destruction of countryside, habitat, environment and way of life for the people of Suffolk Coastal for the benefit of urban areas that want electricity without risk to themselves.  Suffolk has 1.4% of the UK population. It will sustain 100% of the damage of this scheme. Words like ‘mitigation and compensation’ fall very short of addressing the destruction of an historic way of life for everything for the foreseeable future
  5. Development plans for significant housing near Leiston suggests that many or most of the workers, even at the building stage, will not be sourced locally, but will be incomers to Suffolk. What is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  6. If rail is used it will involve apparently the destruction of many existing crossings and rights of way, at great detriment to residents and tourists, who come specifically to walk and enjoy the countryside. Trains, both for delivery of construction materials and for operational uses afterwards will be in excess of the current East Suffolk line usage and will have an impact in both noise and impact on other traffic for residents along the line. Again, what is in this for the people living in Suffolk Coastal?
  7. Where is the acknowledgement of the impact of climate change on the coast of Suffolk? Suffolk County Council declared a climate emergency last week. Rising seas are predicted to put Sizewell under water within a relatively short space of time. What plans have been mafe to guard against this?
  8. Why is there no marine strategy for the delivery of energy? The current scheme will have a massive impact on the people of Suffolk Coastal in order to benefit a large tranche of the UK population. If we in Britain can get our energy from France via undersea cables, surely London can get its energy from Suffolk by the same route?

Specifically to Woodbridge, I want to raise concerns about :

  1. the increase to the volume of traffic that a road-led strategy would displace along the A1438 – the first convenient turnoff from the A12, and travelling immediately through Woodbridge town. This would take non-HGV drivers to places along the coast up as far as Leiston. The impact is likely to be considerable, as many drivers decide to eschew the congested and dangerous A12 for a more scenic, more pleasant journey.
  2. The double whammy caused by a) the increase in HGVs on the A12, passing next to Farlingaye High School, where 2,000 young people from a 400sq mile catchment area will disbenefit from the increase in N02 and particulate matter; while the increase in ‘fugitive’ traffic along the B1438 in Woodbridge, which has a hugely significant number of sheltered, retiremenit and old people’s housing built along it, will affect these residents who will also disbenefit from the increase in N02 and particulate matter. N02 and particulate matter are known to have a particularly poor impact on the young and the old. The impact of air pollution will be added to the obvious issues caused by an increase in traffic on a small town with a particularly large number of elderly residents, and six schools.
  3. Should a rail-led option be included, I must point out that when a Sizewell train passes through Woodbridge it can be heard throughout the town. An increase in rail traffic through the town will result in added noise pollution for the people of the town, in addition to potential loss of crossings and rights of way.

As I said before, I dislike the words “mitigation” & “compensation” when addressing the destruction of the countryside and people’s way of life. If Sizewell C is to go ahead, I hope that EDF energy investigate a marine-led solution for both construction of the site and delivering energy, because no “mitigation” or “compensation” could mitigate or compensate for the impact of this road-led strategy on either Suffolk Coastal as a whole or Woodbridge in particular.

Caroline Page

County Councillor for Woodbridge

Deputy Leader Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group; Leader Suffolk County Council LibDems; LDGI Spokesperson for Women, Highways and Adult Care

Balance for Better: National Womens Day 2019

#BalanceforBetter – this years slogan for International Women’s Day.

Gender balance is essential for fair and thriving economies, businesses, communities. People need to recognise that achieving balance is not just a “Women’s issue”, it’s an issue for everyone. As the chinese say, 妇女能顶半边天 (fù nǚ néng dǐng bàn biān tiān: women hold up half the sky.)

Hold onto that half here – its a numbers game.

Suffolk is the home of women’s suffrage – yet 150 years after Millicent Fawcett started her first suffrage petition, a century after her sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became Aldeburgh’s first Mayor, there are just 22 women councillors elected to Suffolk County Council. Women make up only 29% of Suffolk’s councillors (significantly below the already appalling 33% UK average). At the current rate of progress it’ll take 48 years for the UK to reach gender equality – and nearer 80 in Suffolk. Yet we women make up over half the population! And decisions affect us disproportionately.

Suffolk may have been the birthplace of women’s suffrage, of women’s higher education, of women’s independence – but modern Suffolk has a high gender pay gap, high levels of violence against women, and poor outcomes for girls.

A 2016 report by Plan International on the quality of life of girls across the UK – looking at child poverty, life expectancy, teenage pregnancy, GCSE results and NEET – highlighted Suffolk’s hidden need. Both Ipswich and Waveney were well in the lowest quartile for the UK, with Ipswich ranked 289th out of all 346 English & Welsh district councils. Yet both officers and councillors at Suffolk County Council were unaware of Suffolk’s poor performance. There is a problem with the way that data is gathered and analysed: Suffolk’s “gender data gap”.

The data gap is surprisingly prevalent . When asking the police about local statistics on domestic violence incidents, I was told they did not record the sex of the offender. When we worry about the impact of school transport changes, we don’t have the gender figures for parental impact. We do not know how many of the carers in the community may also be 50’s women with a vanishing pension age, how many non-driving bus users are women, how many lone parent families are headed by women.

As Caroline Criado Perez has recently discovered, the default of person, is man.

Applied to the “gender data gap” this default makes it harder to understand the impact that local and national policies – decided so substantially by men – have on the women and girls of Suffolk. It makes it hard to prove that both cuts and support are administered most appropriately. It makes it much less easy to improve outcomes for either.

Today let’s embrace #BalanceforBetter, and pledge to make a change, and challenge Suffolk’s “gender data gap! We women have nothing to lose but our statistical invisibility!

Park & Ride Update

Anxious passengers at Ipswich P&R discuss its future
Anxious passengers at Ipswich P&R discuss its future

After deciding – once again – to cut a public transport subsidy, SCC’s Conservative administration have decided to honour their commitment to Park and Ride services by trying to make the Ipswich Park & Ride self-supporting!

The dream is to get the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over P&R services: Ipswich buses at the London Road end and First at the Martlesham end. (Many of us have used this system for years. It is called “catching a bus”).

The buildings in the carparks will no longer be ticket offices but will be offered to retail companies.

At the London Road End this plan seems comparatively simple: the 13 bus runs along the same route and Park & Ride tickets can already be used on it out of hours. There are, however, problems for users to the east. I was told, as LibDem Transport Spokesperson, that the 64 & 65 are the services which will become Park and Ride buses at Martlesham. However the Labour spokesperson has been told it would definitely be the 66. Asking the Cabinet Member for disambiguation, he had no idea whatsoever. We now hear it hasn’t been decided. The choice is important: neither service is ideal: the 66 service is slow and goes round a lot of houses. The 64/65 start out as far as Aldeburgh and Leiston and can often get deleayed.

In all, I am not sure how successfully this scheme will work, or whether it is a fudge to extend the operation beyond the forthcoming elections cobbled together by an administration which does not personally use buses.

Suffolk residents need the park& ride to help deal with the increasing congestion in Ipswich. The administration  requires it to be income generating. Of course, there is no reason why it should not be both if properly run. This administration has never shown much sign of wishing to run it properly.

The best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to demand and that would be to provide a speedy service for commuters to reduce the morning rush hour. This our local buses do not do.

At the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride!
We will wait and see as more details emerge.