The UK Planning inspectorate on 4 February released its report on the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey for which energy company Horizon - a subsidiary of Hitachi – had needed approval of the Development Consent Order (DCO) to allow the project to go ahead.
However, in their 906-page report, the government appointed planning inspectors recommended that the project should be rejected, citing a number of expert concerns. The application has since been withdrawn after Hitachi, decided that the plant was too expensive to build without government funding, and Horizon subsequently failed to find any other backers for the project.
On funding, the inspectorate’s report said that “despite the Applicant’s commitment to continued dialogue with UK Government, there remains “considerable uncertainty regarding the overall funding for the proposal and the extent to which the private sector alone can, or is prepared to accept, the business risk to fund it”.
The DCO process, which relates to planning applications for major UK infrastructure projects, has been under consideration for Wylfa since June 2018. Although the Planning Inspectorate’s conclusion was intended to be considered as a recommendation – with the final decision down to the UK government, it undoubtedly was a key factor in the failure of the project.
Expert planning officers felt that the failed to meet some of the United Nations' biological diversity standards and also listed concerns over the project’s impact on the local economy, housing stock and the Welsh language.
The planning inspectors’ report said there was a lack of scientific evidence put forward by developers to demonstrate that the Arctic and Sandwich tern (seabird) populations around the Cemlyn Bay area would not be disturbed by construction. There were fears that these birds would abandon the Bay as a result. It also raised wider concerns over the general impact on Cemlyn Bay, the Cae Gwyn site of special scientific interest and Tre’r Gof.
The report recognised the “significant positive benefits” both locally, regionally and nationally of providing low carbon energy, and said that jobs and training opportunities would have a positive effect on the local and regional economy. But it found the influx up to 7500 workers during construction “could even with the proposed mitigation, adversely affect tourism, the local economy, health and wellbeing and Welsh language and culture”.
It concluded: “Having regard to all the matters referred in this report, the ExA’s conclusion is that, on balance, the matters weighing against the proposed development outweigh the matters weighing in favour of it. The ExA therefore finds the case for development is not made and it recommends accordingly.”
Following withdrawal of the planning application Anglesey MP Virginia Crosbie urged optimism about the future of Wylfa Newydd.
“This is by no means the end of our island’s ambition to have a new nuclear power station on this site, which is a world-class place to install this energy," Crosbie said.
Photo: Horizon's proposed plant at Wylfa Newydd will not go ahead (Credit: Horizon)