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EdF and Hinkley council row over planning costs

Sedgemoor District Council and energy giant EdF were this week urgently trying to settle a row that threatens to derail the planning application for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

EdF and Sedgemoor are locked in a battle over who should pay for the council’s continuing work to scrutinise EdF’s Hinkley Point C planning application.

The nuclear plant is the first planned to be built in the UK since the mid-1990s.

Sedgemoor says the funding is necessary for work to inform the Infrastructure Planning Commission’s (IPC)  recommendation about whether the project should proceed. Cash is set to run out at the end of this month.

EdF is refusing to fully fund the remaining work.

EdF said it had already voluntarily paid Sedgemoor District Council £9.8M over the past two years, to enable the IPC application document to be prepared.

But Sedgemoor claims that it needs £2M more to fully scrutinise the 30,000 page application document and says EdF has only offered to pay a fraction of that amount.

Included in the work still to be completed is the production by Sedgemoor of a Local Impact Report. This must state its position on the extent of impacts of the new plant on local residents.

“We would expect the developer to fund this sort of work,”

Council spokesman.

The IPC expects to receive the report in late May as the application goes through its examination stage. This stage is scheduled to begin on 22 March.

The planning application is currently at pre-examination stage, having been submitted by EdF in October. A recommendation on whether the project should be approved is due within a year of the submission date.

The council said it had entered a planning performance agreement with EdF which it believes commits the company to make payments to fund the work at agreed stages until the end of the six month examination period.

An EdF spokesman said it could not fund work beyond “what is reasonably required” of the council by the IPC process and had a duty to keep the project costs down for future bill payers.

Council requests for extra funds from central government to pay for its work but have been rejected. It says it is “adamant” that it would not consider raising council tax to pay for the work.

“We would expect the developer to fund this sort of work,” said a council spokesman.

Lawyer SJ Berwin Planning & Environment partner Duncan Field said the dispute raised greater concerns about a council’s ability to scrutinise IPC projects.

“Cash is short [at local authorities],” said Field. “But Hinkley Point is a project of national significance and the greater community is set to benefit.”

The dispute comes in the same week that EdF awarded the £100M preliminary earthworks contract to contractors Kier and Bam in joint venture and observers will be keen that the Hinkley Point planning application is dealt with efficiently, to serve as an example for future planned new nuclear schemes.

In addition, the UK and French governments last week formed an alliance to develop new nuclear energy in the UK.

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