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High Court hearing for Sizewell C legal challenge campaigners

Campaigners who have issued a legal challenge against the building of nuclear power plant Sizewell C have a High Court hearing starting on Wednesday 22 March.

Posted on 20 March 2023

Together Against Sizewell C will argue that the environmental impacts of securing a permanent water supply of two million litres per day at the proposed site in Suffolk were never assessed.

As a result, the government cannot guarantee the date the nuclear power plant will open, which means it has no way of knowing for sure that the plant’s contribution to climate change is enough to override the environmental harm it will cause.

Together Against Sizewell C will also make the case that no alternatives to nuclear power, including renewables, were considered when the Secretary of State for Energy, then Kwasi Kwarteng, gave the go ahead for the building of Sizewell C on 20 July 2022.

He rejected the recommendation of the Examining Authority which ruled in February 2022 that unless the outstanding water supply strategy could be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the Secretary of State carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, there was no case for a development consent order.

Together Against Sizewell C are represented by law firm Leigh Day, who have instructed counsel David Wolfe KC, Ashley Bowes and Ruchi Parekh for the rolled up judicial review hearing, which is expected to last for two days.

The claimants’ grounds are:

  • The Energy Secretary did not assess the environmental impacts of building the power station, including the necessary permanent potable water supply solution, in breach of Regulation 63(1) Habitats Regulations 2017
  • He did not assess the environmental impacts of the Power Station together with those of the permanent potable water supply solution
  • He did not give adequate reasons for departing from Natural England’s advice that those impacts needed to be assessed as part of his decision
  • He failed to consider alternative solutions to the power plant, before concluding there were imperative reasons of overriding public interest justifying the environmental harm it would cause
  • He considered a legally irrelevant (because it was supported by no evidence) consideration, that the Power Station would make a “significant contribution” to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by 78% on 1990 levels by 2035
  • He irrationally concluded the Power Station site would be clear of nuclear material by 2140
  • He was wrong to fail to assess what impact the Power Station’s operational emissions would have on the UK’s ability to meet its climate change obligations
Jenny Kirtley of Together Against Sizewell C commented: 

"TASC is delighted that our legal team now has the opportunity to present our full legal arguments in respect of the inadequacy of the assessment of the environmental impacts Sizewell C will have on the Heritage Coast of East Suffolk and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to which it is home. TASC remain shocked that the Secretary of State over-ruled the considered and reasoned rejection of the application by the independent Planning Inspector – by granting development consent in a potentially legally flawed manner.

“TASC has the support of Suffolk Coastal Friends of the Earth and Stop Sizewell C in this vitally important battle for the soul of the Heritage Coast. Like so many other individuals and organisations in the area, they have worked tirelessly alongside us to demonstrate the flaws in government's plans for more nuclear development on this fragile coast. Their support for TASC's legal challenge demonstrates a determination and unity of purpose among the communities affected by this environmentally damaging project which strengthens our collective resolve to say no to Sizewell C and EDF's plans to disfigure and ruin this part of Suffolk."

"This generation’s inactivity on climate change has already compromised future generations. To proceed with Sizewell C while being fully aware that it is highly vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges and flooding only adds to the inter-generational burden we pass on. Deliberately doing so when alternatives to nuclear power are available, is irresponsible, immoral and borders on being criminal."

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said: 

“Without a permanent water supply, Sizewell C cannot function. Our client is adamant that this made the supply an essential part of the project that needed to be assessed. The failure to do so, it will be argued, went to the heart of what was legally wrong with the Secretary of State’s decision to approve this locally and nationally contentious new nuclear power station.”
Rowan Smith
Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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Campaigners issue legal challenge against decision to build Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station

A campaign group has issued legal proceedings against the government challenging its decision to allow for the Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station to go ahead against the advice of the planning Examining Authority.

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