“Hinkley Point C brings London-level traffic to small Somerset town.
Air and noise pollution, traffic chaos and rising rents are blighting the Somerset town that has found itself the gateway for the marathon construction of the new Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power station, locals say.
Limits for air pollution have been exceeded on main roads on multiple occasions this year, while Highways England data shows truck numbers have increased by more than 20% since building work started in 2016.
On some roads, two heavy goods vehicles pass through every minute. Not all are delivering to Hinkley but, with no bypass built for the nuclear site, locals say it has made the town unnavigable at times.
Buses transporting 4,000 construction workers to the site add to the traffic – and the influx of workers is pushing up rents. Rat runs are in gridlock and a town that is home to just under 40,000 people is experiencing London-level traffic on some roads.
Friends of the Earth, which looked at the air quality data for 2018 and 2019 provided by the local Sedgemoor district council, said it was concerned about the high incidences of particle matter on some roads.
Data shows that particle matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10) has exceeded safe limits on Quantock Road 16 times already this year, while on nearby Bristol Road those limits were exceeded 15 times.
The latest data for traffic shows the number of HGVs has increased from 470 a day in 2014 to 900 in 2018 on Quantock Road, the principal artery out of the town to Hinkley.
For nearby Horsey Level, the number of trucks a day is registered at almost 1,500, while on Taunton Road, the main road coming from the M5’s junction 24, residents have to endure 1,050 a day, making it difficult to cross the road and forcing many cyclists on to the paths for their own safety.
HPC says the number of HGVs travelling every day to and from the site is capped at 750.
… Hinkley agreed a fund to fit double-glazed windows on some of the busiest roads in Bridgwater. It says this is a goodwill gesture and not an admission of responsibility for the noise of HGVs.
“EDF have paid to replace all my windows, and it’s made no difference. On a summer’s night, I’m not able to sleep with the windows open at all,” said Balcombe. “I am woken up every morning at 5am from the noise of lorries. And when these lorries are empty the clatter they make is unbelievable with the metal bouncing round.”
HPC points out that the HGV movements will ease in the autumn when it switches supplies to the sea. The jetty is now complete and the permission it got for an extra 250 HGVs a day will expire.
For Bridgwater locals a bypass would have been the answer and helped relieve the town of its perennial traffic problem.
The former Labour councillor Mick Lerry, who was involved in the fight for a bypass, said the attempt was stymied because it was never part of the development consent order submitted by EDF. “As it was not part of the application, it could not be considered,” he said.
The government said it had considered the impact of HGVs on Bridgwater and was satisfied. …”