Suffolk County Council commissioned a research study to explore the perceptions and priorities amongst communities likely to be affected by the construction of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast. The principle concern related to the construction traffic expected to cause significant disruption to the local communities along the route during the anticipated ten-year construction phase.
The assessment of traffic impacts is typically undertaken using the Department for Transport’s WebTAG and Design Manual for Road and Bridges methodologies supplemented by Guidelines produced by the former Institute of Environmental Assessment. However, Suffolk County Council was concerned that such an approach could overlook and understate the extent of impacts experience by local communities. The present research was commissioned to explore these social impacts in detail.
The study consisted of four phases:
The study found that the Sizewell C construction project was likely to have a wide range of impacts on the quality of life of people living and working along and near to the proposed construction traffic route. The main aspects local people identified as causing concern included traffic volume, speed, and the proportion of HGVs. The aspects that were perceived to have the highest impact on participants included noise, extra time added to car and bus journeys, and accident risk.
The mitigation measures given highest priority by residents included restrictions to HGV traffic at night-time or during weekends, less onsite parking (to encourage greater bus use and lower car use along the route), enforcement of speed limits, and safety measures for pedestrians/cyclists. The perceived impacts and preferred mitigation measures depended on the participant’s location (parish and distance to the road) and on personal (socio-economic) characteristics.
The results were consistent with those from previous studies in that they confirmed noise to be the most tangible effect of increased traffic levels. The fact that local people gave a high priority to restrictions on HGVs traffic at night-time and on weekends also confirmed that perceptions about the impact of traffic depended not only on traffic volume but also on its composition and timing. On the other hand, the differences between the impacts perceived by younger and older people were not as marked as those found in previous literature. Household type (particularly the presence of children) was found to have a higher influence on preferences regarding impacts and mitigation measures.
The application of the methods used in this study also revealed aspects than can be used to complement current methods for the assessment of traffic impacts, such as the Department of Transport’s WebTAG framework, and the Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic.
Overall, the study produced a rich set of insights into the perceptions and concerns of local people concerning Sizewell C construction traffic issues. These insights provided a valuable resource to inform future discussions in relation to Sizewell C.