Wylfa planning deadline moved as deal yet to emerge

The council has deferred its decision to award planning consent for the nuclear power plant scheme on Anglesey for a second time while its developer winds up operations at the site after pulling out of the project.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the subsidiary of Japan’s Hitachi that works to advance nuclear development in the UK, was to build the £20bn Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant, along with a smaller plant at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire.

However, it halted works on both projects in January 2019 and concluded last September that it was unable to progress the schemes for viability reasons. It said it would take steps for the “orderly closing down” of all its development activities at the two sites.

Later that month, Horizon chief executive Duncan Hawthorne wrote to Gareth Leigh, head of energy infrastructure planning at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) requesting the delay to a decision on awarding a development consent order for the project from 30 September to 31 December.

The request was granted, however, on 18 December, Hawthorne wrote again to BEIS requesting a further deferral until 30 March. Once planning consent is awarded, a developer has three years to complete the project, and Horizon is keen that another developer is found to deliver the scheme and secure the consent. Hawthorne’s latest request has been granted, and the statutory deadline for the application is 30 April.

Last November, it emerged that a consortium led by US engineering firm Bechtel was in talks with the Government to take over the stalled scheme, but a deal has yet to be reached.

In his latest letter, Hawthorne wrote: “A further short deferral would allow us to conclude discussions to deliver a clear outcome for the Wylfa Newydd project, and to settle on our position regarding development consent.

“We believe this would serve to support HM Government policy and would represent a pragmatic and aligned course of action.”

Business secretary Alok Sharma agreed to the request in his response on 31 December. He added: “However, please note that I will require any updated information from the Applicant by 31 March 2021 in order that I have sufficient time to consider it before taking my decision on or before 30 April 2021.”

Cllr Llinos Medi, leader of Anglesey Council, said in a statement: “We remain hopeful that the DCO can be granted in the not too distant future. Anglesey Council will continue to play its part in the consenting process as requested by [the Planning Inspectorate] and will maintain regular dialogue with Hitachi, Horizon Nuclear Power and both the Welsh and UK Governments.”

She added: “Wylfa is one of the best sites for new nuclear development in Europe and its future development has the potential to bring huge economic rewards and job opportunities for our young people over the next 60 years.

“The project also remains an integral part of the County Council’s Energy Island vision which would put Anglesey at the forefront of low carbon energy research and development, production and servicing. The economic benefits would extend across the Island, North Wales region and beyond.”

The council had a “constructive and positive working relationship” with Horizon Nuclear Power while it was working on the project, she added.

“It was keenly aware of local expectations and concerns and we would certainly want to see this retained and embedded in any new consortium taking this hugely important socio-economic project forward.”

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