The go-ahead has been given to clear more than 700 acres of land earmarked for Wylfa Newydd – despite a legal challenge.
Anglesey councillors voted on Wednesday to give planning permission to developers Horizon to clear the site in preparation for the proposed £12 billion nuclear power plant. Work will take around fifteen months to complete.
The application had been recommended by planning officers. But Greenplace has launched legal action against the council, arguing clearing work should not begin until Wylfa Newydd itself is given the go ahead.
The organisation say there are ”serious concerns” about the viability and financing of the project – and claim the local authority relied too heavily on the UK Government’s policy statement on nuclear energy as a ”key justification” for supporting the clearing work.
Talks are continuing between the UK Government and Horizon’s owners Hitachi on the project – and a decision on whether to grant the Japanese giant a development consent order is not expected until 2020 at the earliest.
Anglesey Council said the decision to allow the site to be prepared would speed up construction work at Wylfa by around a year. A report, discussed by the planning committee on Wedneday, said Horizon would restore the 740-acre site if the plans fell through.
The company has also pledged £2 million towards reducing the local impact of the clearing work and another £7.5 million to restore the land if Wylfa Newydd doesn’t go ahead.
Council leader Llinos Medi, said: ”The Wylfa Newydd project will bring long-term economic benefits for the Island, but also poses many significant challenges. We remain committed to the Wylfa Newydd project and creating a thriving and prosperous economy here on Anglesey, but this will not come at any cost.”
”We are working to utilise the proximity principle to ensure that mitigation measures focus on communities hosting this huge infrastructure project first and foremost; then the rest of the Island and mainland as appropriate.”
The council’s head of regulation, Dylan J Williams, said: ”The terms agreed with Horizon Nuclear Power will enable the proposed early works to proceed, whilst ensuring potential impacts are mitigated effectively.”
”An application of this scale will cause significant change – the communities directly affected will be prioritised through this mitigation package. Importantly, environmental, cultural, and socio-economic concerns raised will also be addressed and will be the subject of appropriate remediation.”
Laywers acting for Greenpeace submitted their objection on Tuesday ahead of the planning committee’s meeting in Llangefni.
Ahead of the meeting, the pressure group’s head of energy Kate Blagojevic said: ”The National Infrastructure Committee has advised the government to focus their energy policy on renewables because wind and solar power are much cheaper than nuclear.”
”The unseemly haste with which parts of Anglesey County Council are trying to rush this proposal through planning is both unlawful and entirely premature given the failure of the project to secure funding.”
Dylan Morgan from the campaign group PAWB (People Against Wylfa B) added: ”There is no way that Horizon could restore this landscape so it is completely premature to give them permission without knowing whether they will obtain consent to go ahead with the project at all.”
”It’s also unclear whether Hitachi can put a financial package together to carry out the construction of two huge and totally unnecessary new nuclear reactors at Wylfa.”