An additional £64 million will be spent on benefiting the local community if a new nuclear power station is built in Somerset, it was announced yesterday.
EDF Energy and Somerset councils have agreed a deal for the extra cash for housing, transport, education and training, following a draft agreement in August.
It comes on top of £30 million pledged earlier this year by EDF over site preparation works and is subject to consent from the Secretary of State by the end of this year.
The news came as MPs were told that people living closer to nuclear power stations were more accepting, but still have concerns over their impact.
The investment consists of £8.5 million to alleviate potential impacts on the housing market, and nearly £16 million is earmarked for road improvements to ease traffic and improve road safety, especially in and around Bridgwater.
Almost £13 million will be independently administered by the Somerset Community Foundation, £7.1 million is to improve local skills and training and £4.6 million is for community safety measures.
Some £3 million will support schools, providing extra places if necessary, £1 million is for health services, £5.5 million for economic development and tourism and £300,000 on local heritage.
As well as landscape improvements there will be contributions to flood defences in Cannington, Bridgwater and Stolford, and £3.6 million to councils, to monitor the progress of the development.
EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “This is a landmark agreement for the people of Somerset and for the project. It provides a strong springboard for success.
“During three years of consultation, we have worked very closely with the local authorities and other groups to identify and mitigate the impact of our proposals.”
Cllr David Hall, Somerset’s cabinet member for economic development, said they had worked hard with EDF to minimise any negative impacts if the development goes ahead.
Sedgemoor leader Cllr Duncan McGinty said: “This will be a huge project that has the ability to shape and change the nature of the local economy so our role will be to work with EDF to make sure our expectations are fulfilled.”
And West Somerset leader Cllr Tim Taylor said the agreement was a significant step.
The news came as Sedgemoor’s corporate director gave evidence to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee on the challenges of building nuclear.
Bob Brown explained that concerns changed with proximity to the plant, with those nearer them more accepting.
He said any worries are more likely to involve the construction process and the impact of workers arriving, while those living further away, and feeling less of the economic benefits, were more likely to be concerned by the principle of nuclear power.
He said people living near Hinkley Point in Somerset – likely to be the site of Britain’s first new nuclear reactor in a generation – were well informed.
“There will be considerable benefits for jobs and economic investment but it will not all be local,” he said.
There were a number of communities that would not benefit from jobs, such as the elderly population who have retired, and would find hundreds of lorries blocking the roads. He also noted that the temporary campus in Bridgwater for the workforce, who would be paid considerably more than the average for the area, would be next to one of the most deprived wards in the country.