War of words over Hinkley cash deal

Somerset County Gazette, Wednesday 22nd July 2009

ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners claim a proposed financial deal between local councils and the firm behind plans for a new power station at Hinkley Point would be a 'conflict of interest'.

Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council and West Somerset Council last week announced they are considering asking EDF Energy to fund the planning process for two new reactors at Hinkley under a Planning Performance Agreement.

The councils say the move is necessary because the planning application will be so complex and will require experts in so many fields, and because repeated requests for Government funding have failed.

The councils also say the agreement will allow them to robustly assess EDF's proposals without burdening the taxpayer.

However, Stop Hinkley coordinator Jim Duffy said: "There is a clear conflict of interest in this deal with such a large, powerful developer.

"The councils should do all they can to keep clear ground between themselves and EDF. Currently the lines are very blurred."

Somerset County Council cabinet member William Wallace said the Government supported the move.

He said: "Government have advised us to work with EDF on a Planning Performance Agreement. "This is a formal document, which enables us to engage appropriately in the process and ensure that local people are properly consulted.

"What it does not commit us to is any particular decision or consultation response. Our judgements will be based on the facts and the views of our community."

An EDF spokesman said: "Local authorities play a key role in the planning process and we recognise that assessment of our proposals will place additional strains on the local authorities' planning resources.

"It is appropriate that as developer we should be expected to help meet this financial burden."

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Page Updated 25-Jul-2009