Stop Hinkley Press Release
9th July 2008
New planning laws restrict public say on reactors
New planning laws currently going through parliament will restrict the public's voice on proposed new reactors at Hinkley and Oldbury.
The Planning Reform Bill is now with the House of Lords following a Commons vote contested by 68 labour rebels and the Liberal Democrats. The Government wants to speed up the existing public inquiry process for large infrastructure projects such as power stations but has been criticised for doing this at the expense of democracy and public involvement.
A new unelected quango, the Infrastructure Planning Commission, will replace the public inquiry system. Its remit will be set by the Government to include only a narrow range of environmental issues such as traffic, roads and local pollution. The bigger issues of nuclear safety, nuclear waste, climate change, the need for nuclear power or its local alternatives will be dismissed as they will have been centrally decided in advance. It is not clear whether the health effects of radioactive discharges will be considered as Government may argue that radioactive emissions are endorsed by other Government departments.
With the current inquiry system a recommendation is made by the inquiry inspector and a final decision made by an accountable minister. This last process of accountability will also be removed.
The Inquiry approach also allows objectors to call expert witnesses and cross-examine government and industry representatives. This thorough approach led, in the Sizewell B inquiry, to extra safety systems being designed in to the reactor. At the Hinkley C inquiry, which took fourteen months (1988-89), insights into actual nuclear build costs were revealed which later led the Government to halt further nuclear development.
The IPC will simply allow a short open floor session for the public at the end of their deliberations.
Friends of the Earth has said the law may infringe UK Common Law rights and the European Convention on Human Rights as those affected by these decisions should have their views heard before a decision is made.
Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley and Shut Oldbury said: "This new law is a charter for big business and does not promote the public interest. The new quango will simply rubber stamp decisions taken at Whitehall while the public sits at the back of a hall with no right to press for answers on serious nuclear matters or the development of its area. This is nowhere near good enough for a 21st century democratic Britain ."
Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator,
Notes and summary: