The focus of the meeting was a presentation by two Council Officers from Somerset’s ‘Major Energy Project Group’. This was followed by questions, first from Town Councillors, then from members of the public. This was the first time that people in Glastonbury had been given any chance at all to express their feelings or opinions - though it was firmly restricted to matters of direct consequence to the town of Glastonbury.
The main message of the meeting, whispered in between every line, was how disempowered we, the people, have become in relation to large corporate bodies and projects such as this. In Glastonbury and Wells we have elected an MP [Tessa Munt, Lib Dem] who is opposed to new nuclear power stations in principle – which has made no difference. And that’s as far as democracy goes.
Since the 2008 Planning Act, local councils are no longer the planning authority for projects deemed to be of strategic national importance. There will be no repeat of the interminable planning inquiry that followed the last proposal for a new power station at Hinkley, in the 1980s. The planning authority is the relevant Secretary of State, with recommendations from the Planning Inspectorate (formerly the Infrastructure Planning Commission).
In other words, central government, which actually made its decision before informing anyone in Somerset, four years ago. The County Council only has powers to negotiate additional measures, in ‘mitigation’ of whatever inconvenience this plan may pose to the people who live in its vicinity.
EDF submitted their application for a ‘Development Consent Order’ to build a 3.2 Gigawatt nuclear power station and related ancillary works on October 31st. It is expected to be approved in about three months time. The application was 90,000 pages long.
The site has already been cleared, and major earthworks are scheduled to begin in March or April 2013. By July, they intend to be bringing in stone aggregate at a steady rate of 10,000 tonnes a day.