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THE Hinkley C nuclear power station will go ahead following a "new agreement" with EDF, the Government has confirmed.

The decision comes after months of delays, with Theresa May's Government delaying a decision after EDF approved the scheme in July.

Ministers said they had imposed "significant new safeguards" for future foreign investment in critical infrastructure in the new agreement.

RELATED: A timeline of Hinkley C - how we got here

Somerset County Gazette: A computer-generated image issued of the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant

A statement said: "Following a comprehensive review of the Hinkley Point C project, and a revised agreement with EDF, the Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.

"However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain's critical infrastructure, which will include nuclear energy and apply after Hinkley."

RELATED: More Hinkley C news

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: "Having thoroughly reviewed the proposal for Hinkley Point C, we will introduce a series of measures to enhance security and will ensure Hinkley cannot change hands without the Government's agreement.

"Consequently, we have decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation.

"Britain needs to upgrade its supplies of energy and we have always been clear that nuclear is an important part of ensuring our future low-carbon energy security."

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The news comes as a 300,000-name petition is set to be handed in to Downing Street opposing the plan.

EDF has issued a statement following the decision, saying it is delighted with the news.

A spokesman for the French energy giant said: "The approval of this construction project for two nuclear reactors on the Hinkley Point site in Somerset in the South-West of England marks the conclusion of ten years of preparation and rigorous planning.

"It will benefit from the joint strengths of the British and French nuclear industries, and will lead to the creation of 25,000 job opportunities on the site during construction, and will offer numerous opportunities for local and national businesses. Areva, GE-Alstom and BYLOR as well as hundreds of French medium size businesses and SMEs will be committed to the success of the project.

RELATED: Live updates and reaction from Hinkley Point C

"An exchange of letters between EDF and the British authorities will render the discussions that took place over the last few days, to formalise their wish to take into account the EDF’s commitment to retain control of HPC project.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF Group CEO, said: “The decision of the British Government to approve the construction of Hinkley Point C marks the relaunch of nuclear in Europe.

"It demonstrates the UK's desire to lead the fight against climate change through the development of low carbon electricity.

Somerset County Gazette:

"This decision demonstrates confidence in the EPR technology and in the world renowned expertise of the French nuclear industry.

"I congratulate the teams of EDF who have developed this project to maturity with enthusiasm, professionalism and determination."

Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF Energy and Executive Committee member of the Group, said: “Today’s announcement is good news for British consumers, a huge boost for British industry and a major step forward in the fight against climate change.

"The strong performance of the EDF Energy’s 15 nuclear reactors underpins our credibility as a nuclear operator and developer in the UK.

Somerset County Gazette: Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, appeared before MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee

"We will take the risk and responsibility to deliver Hinkley Point C and provide the UK with the reliable low carbon electricity it needs. The experience and expertise gained from restarting new nuclear build in the UK will help following projects be cheaper."

The news has been welcomed by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce as a cue for widespread investment and job creation across the region.

Dale Edwards, chief executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said, “The government’s confirmation of the green light for Hinkley Point C is tremendous news for the region, signalling the start of a project that will bring enormous investment, the creation and security of many thousands of jobs, and huge benefits for the county as a whole through improved infrastructure and phenomenal business opportunities.

“It is extremely gratifying to finally get confirmation that the project will happen, giving local businesses the opportunity to be part of Europe’s largest infrastructure project and build a legacy that will benefit future generations.

“Hinkley Point C is expected to be worth over £200million per year to the regional economy during the years of core construction activity, and almost £4billion over the lifetime of the project.

Somerset County Gazette: CALLS: Dale Edwards

“The substantial investment and opportunities this will bring for local businesses are the culmination of many years of sustained collaboration with EDF Energy to develop a robust supply chain that can deliver this major infrastructure project.

“While over £465million of contact values have already been awarded to businesses in Somerset and the South West as a result of the supply chain activity, today’s announcement is likely to be the stimulus that will really kick-start the benefits and opportunities that this project will bring.”

Meanwhile, Somerset County Council has heralded the announcement, saying it will bring 'unprecedented investment and job creation to the county and the wider region'.

“Today’s announcement by Government is long-awaited and extremely important,” said Councillor John Osman, leader of Somerset County Council.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our businesses, young people and the county as a whole.

“We fully understand the additional time needed by Theresa May and her team wanting to make sure they have had every opportunity to give it their fullest scrutiny; this is a massive scheme that will bring the largest construction project in Europe to Somerset.”

Councillor David Hall, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for business and inward investment, said the long-awaited news from Government was “the final hurdle cleared” for the delivery of the nuclear power station in Somerset.

“Like everyone else we have been waiting for the Prime Minister and her team to confirm the government’s commitment to the project. That they have given it the green light after this additional review and detailed scrutiny is a further endorsement of the scheme," he said.

Somerset County Gazette: Cllr David Hall

“A tremendous amount of work has been happening behind the scenes to be sure that we are ready for this very moment. We are committed to continue working together with the government, EDF and partners to see the development delivered as soon as possible and to fully realise the once-in-a-generation opportunities presented by the project to transform the local and regional economy.

“During construction alone, the project is expected to bring £200 million to the local economy while over the lifetime of the project, the regional economy is set to benefit by around £4 billion,” he added.

“It looks set to kick-start the national nuclear renaissance and will be the catalyst for economic growth in Somerset and the wider South West region.”

RELATED: Critics of Hinkley Point C react after the decision

Cllr Leigh Redman added: "Now that the PM has finally made a decision to support the EDF board and allow this massive opportunity for Bridgwater to proceed and give their approval for Hinkley C, the communities around Bridgwater can get on with preparing for the influx of traffic and workers.

"This project is the biggest national infrastructure development this country has seen.

"For more than six years I have been working along with other councillors on the implementation plans that have already been made.

Somerset County Gazette: Hinkley Point C Update and Bridgwater College visit

" We are going to see massive change over the next few months, more road works as the ‘golden triangle’ (Matalan-Volunteer arms-Wicks) junctions all have HPC funded traffic remodelling work programmed, the starting of the accommodation blocks in the old Cellophane site will see 1000 workers housed in temporary buildings, lorries and busses will increase the movement of workers and materials heading to and from the site.

"For months people have been waiting for FID, now after a few false starts your local representatives will be fighting hard for the best and sensible implementation of the program.

"At the same time millions of pounds will be released for mitigation where needed, you should take time to understand what will be happening near you and how if appropriate your community can benefit from mitigation.

"This can be through the sports fund in place to provide local resources, or the accommodation fund in place to support possible increase in private landlord rents and reduced availability of bed space, and include a transport fund to repair HPC damage or reduce noise impact on homes.

"I was heavily involved in the current community impact mitigation bids getting written and approved, giving nearly £500k to Bridgwater town center and Bridgwater south residents for works.

"We have to generally accept and welcome the FID, the fact that the British government have finally got off the fence, the financial benefit for Bridgwater has to be acknowledged.

"Now the build has been confirmed we can start monitoring and reporting concerns that may arise.

"HPC should be welcomed for the good it will bring our town, but we should be compensated where necessary for inconvenience or negative impact, I call on HPC to remember the small person and go that extra mile to support those that need it."

Sedgemoor District Council has also welcomed the news.

Councillor Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council, said: “We are so pleased that the review that the Prime Minister called for in July has been concluded and that the decision by the Government is to back the building of Hinkley Point C.

“Whilst we await to hear the detail of the decision from Government, Sedgemoor District Council is ‘Hinkley-ready’ and have staff in place to support and implement the project to maximise benefit to local people and businesses as well as minimise impacts."

Somerset County Gazette: Duncan McGinty

“This decision now gives a sound basis for a green light for the project after many false dawns and we can get on with all the plans that we have been working on for the past eight years. 

"Hinkley Point C will be the UK's largest engineering and construction project in modern times. Sedgemoor District Council, together with partners, will continue working towards maximising local benefits but being mindful of the mitigating measures that will be required. 

Councillor Duncan McGinty, Leader of Sedgemoor District Council, had a private meeting with the Prime Minister on yesterday (Wednesday, 14th September), along with Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger.

Cllr McGinty said “I was very grateful to the Prime Minister for the opportunity to tell her first hand about the local perspective of the positive impacts of Hinkley Point C across Sedgemoor, Somerset and the wider south-west economy and pleased that the government have concluded their review and that HPC has now got a green light. 

"The two local councils of Sedgemoor and West Somerset recognise the very significant responsibility of hosting the first of the UK's new nuclear power stations and will continue work with both the Government and EDF Energy to ensure that the benefits to their communities are long-lasting.”

Somerset County Gazette: Home Secretary Theresa May

The country's largest union, Unite, has labelled the decision as 'historic', and said its members are eager to start work.

Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne said: “Today’s historic decision is very welcome. Our members are shovel ready and dead keen to start work on the country’s first nuclear power station for a generation.

“It is excellent news that that the uncertainty caused by Theresa May’s decision to put Hinkley Point ‘on hold’ has now been dispelled and that the government recognises the role of nuclear in a mixed energy economy.

“It means that the lights will remain on in the UK in the decades ahead and it heralds an economic renaissance for the West Country, with the accompanying creation of thousands of skilled jobs and the positive ripple effects to the supply chain across the UK. It is especially heartening that the new jobs will include 500 much-needed apprenticeships.

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“This was the first big litmus test for big infrastructure projects, following June’s EU referendum and shows that there is the appetite for  giving the green light for such projects that the UK so desperately needs for its future economic prosperity. 

“Unite will be pressing the UK government, EDF and the sub-contractors to make maximum use of British-made materials, such as steel, so that the benefits flow into the blood stream of the wider UK economy.”

Unite and the other unions involved regard the go-ahead for the £18 billion project, which will generate seven per cent of UK electricity demand, as vital in terms of providing thousands of jobs and ‘keeping the lights on’ in the years ahead. 

Kevin Coyne added: “The trade unions involved with this project are also pleased to say that we have agreed a ground-breaking template with EDF for decent working conditions and employment practices at the Somerset site.”  

Molly Scott Cato, Green South West MEP for the South West, has criticised the move.

She said: "When Theresa May called for a comprehensive review of Hinkley, it was hoped she would conclude that the project was economically illiterate, technically flawed, environmentally risky and a threat to security. This is what scientific, economic and environmental experts have been saying for years.

“But this is post-Brexit Britain, where the government turns its back on experts in the name of political expediency.

"Having insulted our European partners, the government believes it cannot afford to offend the Chinese.

"In a desperate attempt to demonstrate Brexit Britain is open for business, the government is engaged in a national kowtow exercise, handing over our energy infrastructure to the Chinese Communist Party.

“This is the exact opposite of taking back control. Real control would come through a renewable energy revolution, providing cheaper and greener electricity, greater energy security and generating thousands more home grown jobs than nuclear power.

Somerset County Gazette: Molly Scott Cato

"Community owned renewables can also take power away from foreign corporations and governments and hand it back to the people; a path Germany and other countries are embarking on.

“The government says it will introduce greater scrutiny of future deals to protect national security, but not for this project.

"I simply can't understand why, if the current arrangements need to be changed, they are good enough for the people I represent in South West England.

"Effectively, consumers and businesses will pay the price for what the government is acknowledging is a massive error in our approach to the ownership and control of critical infrastructure. Also, we are told we will receive information about sale of the stake by EDF but not be able to prevent it. So the whole thing could end up belonging to the Chinese.

“As for Labour, they are still stuck in the nuclear bunker, willing to support a discredited scheme to keep British unions happy. Meanwhile, French unions, who have expressed serious doubts about the financial and technical viability of Hinkley, will be seriously worried by today’s news.

“The UK is rich in renewable potential but with this government and an opposition in name only, there is a desperate lack of political will."

Dr Brigdet Woodman, deputy director of the Energy Policy Group at the University of Exeter, also criticised the decision as a 'missed opportunity'.

Dr Woodman said: “Theresa May’s decision to back the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is a huge missed opportunity for the UK. 

"The Prime Minister had a moment of common sense earlier in the summer when she realised that the viability of the project needed careful scrutiny, but in the end she has caved in to French and Chinese pressure to go ahead despite all the evidence stacking up that subsidising the station will cost electricity consumers billions of pounds over its lifetime, not to mention all the taxpayer underwriting for clearing up its radioactive waste when it stops operating. 

Somerset County Gazette:

“This is a case of short term politics winning out over the longer term economic and environmental benefit of the nation. 

"By going down the nuclear route, the Prime Minister has missed the opportunity to have a meaningful debate about the future development of the UK’s electricity system and the role that renewables and demand management can play in delivering cheaper, less environmentally damaging and more secure power than Hinkley Point. 

“Unfortunately the UK’s energy policy remains stuck in the same old dirty, centralised rut, despite cleaner, more flexible and cheaper alternatives being available."

Bruton Knowles, a west commerical property specialist has welcomed the news of a go ahead at Hinkley Point. 

Paul Matthews, head of Bruton Knowles Bristol office said: “Just about every commercial sector in the area has been ticking over while Theresa May makes up her mind.

“This is the announcement everyone has been waiting for. Local towns such as Bridgwater have already seen considerable investment while the Hinkley project was still in its infancy.

“They will now become major business hubs in their own right as primary and secondary support services head to the area.

“Many businesses have been holding back on investment over the last few years waiting for this funding to drop into place. Hinkley C requires a big supply chain and there are sub-contractors that will now be able to look forward with confidence and start investing. The impact on the property market will be colossal over a wide area.

“Some of those involved in the construction will need to be physically close to the site and they have been looking at options on properties for some time. This announcement now means those deals will progress.

“But others, such as Quantity Surveyors, engineers and other technical support will look to take offices around Bristol, so that will have an effect on the office market.

“In truth Hinkley C will have a major effect on offices, industrial, retail and hotel accommodation within 50 miles of the site. There will also be a need to provide an infrastructure for the thousands of people that will be involved.

“Hinkley C is a major national infrastructure project as it goes a long way to securing Britain’s energy. The fact that so much money from China is coming into the region will also help the region’s connections with that economy".

Somerset County Gazette:

Colleague Will Nell believes the Hinkley decision will impact on construction Costs in the Area.

“What I am hearing from other professionals in the construction sector is that Hinkley will draw in good skilled workers from a pool that has diminished over recent years.

“Contactors who rely on subcontractors will have to pay more to retain their services and may have to bring in labour from other areas.

“Contractors providing quotes for building works are pricing in risk of sub contractor price increases –this includes professionals such as QS’s and project managers  not only trades.

  “Any developer looking at a potential scheme now should consider awarding building contact sooner rather than later to avoid increased costs as the region moves forward.”

Professor Tom Scott, Co-director of the South West Nuclear Hub and Nuclear Research Centre (NRC) at the University of Bristol, said:

“We warmly welcome this very positive decision from the UK government which will help significantly to underpin the security of our national energy supply for decades to come.

“Investments in low carbon energy technology such as this also signify the continuing commitment to decarbonising our electricity generation in order to fight against climate change.

“In order to support the UK nuclear renaissance we have recently opened the South West Nuclear Hub, a venture led the University of Bristol, which seeks to provide leadership and excellence in nuclear research, teaching and innovation.

“Ongoing, the hub will involve all the major regional universities working together in close partnership with industry to provide a pipeline of skilled people to enter and support the industry.

Somerset County Gazette: Hinkley contract workers will bring huge boost to economy, says EDF

“Our collective research and innovation activities will not only support the new build programme but also aim to solve some of the thorniest challenges in waste management and decommissioning, whilst also developing aspects of future nuclear energy technologies that we might be using in 50 or even 100 years’ time.

“There is huge opportunity opening up in the region for young skilled people to enter the nuclear industry.

“To help skill people up, the University of Bristol has created a Masters course in Nuclear Science and Engineering which has been designed and constructed in partnership with EDF, the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and other nuclear companies and organisations”.

Tim Davies, head of the Bristol office of commercial property specialist Colliers International said that the decision to go ahead with Hinkley will bring an end to years of uncertainty surrounding the project.

He said: "Ever since Hinkley Point C was identified as one of a new generation of nuclear power stations in 2008 there has been uncertainty about whether it would go ahead. Now a decision has been made, ending nearly a decade of delays and anxieties that reached a pitch recently following the government’s unexpected last minute review of the project.

“Irrespective of whether you agree with nuclear power, the commercial benefits that the development will bring to the region cannot be underestimated.

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“What is needed now is for work at Hinkley Point C to get underway as soon as possible, as this will unlock extensive opportunities along the massive supply chain required, and will benefit sectors including construction, industrial, offices and hospitality.

“Construction of Hinkley Point C is expected to bring 25,000 employment opportunities, and local and regional investment including £16m in roads and infrastructure. This will inevitably boost confidence and values and bring momentum to the ‘West Country powerhouse’ and give a massive economic boost for the South West, which is already the stand out region outside London and the South East".

The Tax Payers Alliance have voiced their concerns about Hinkley C being poor value for money. John O'Connell, Chief Executive of The Tax Payers Alliance said: "It's deeply disappointing that the government is pressing ahead with this deal which combines huge risk with spectacularly bad value for money. The technology to be used is unproven and projects using the same reactor are years behind schedule and massively over budget.

Somerset County Gazette: The Tax Payers' Alliance said MPs from outside London could live in the Olympic Village

All the signs are there that this project will be a hugely expensive failure but we seem to be continuing with the failed policies of the past, saddling consumers with exorbitant bills in the process".

Councillor Mick Lerry of Sedgemoor District Council said that there will be great benefits now that Hinkley C has been given the go ahead including new apprenticeships and a minimum hourly rate of £20 per hour. 

Somerset County Gazette: SDC Labour Group Leader, Cllr Mick Lerry

“As leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council. I will be lobbying Government and talking to ministers about community benefit and how the hosting community can access funding during the construction phase of Hinkley C. This funding should then be invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for the local community. It is important for the people of Bridgwater to benefit from the economic growth, as they are the main hosting community, for this major infrastructure project”.