Over the past month, readers of the Mercury will be aware there has been a succession of announcements related to the development at Hinkley Point C, with both the Chinese and British Governments having set out there investment intentions and commitment to the project.

Quite rightly, this has been followed by a wave of commentary nationally on what it means; from our relationship with China; to whether it is the right or wrong decision for the UK economy and, depending on your personal view, how fantastic / awful the project is for Somerset and its residents.

Whilst it’s right that the benefits and risks for the UK are debated, and positive that the coverage has placed Sedgemoor and West Somerset at the heart of that debate, it is important not to lose sight of the reality of the development at Hinkley Point, both its positives and negatives.

For Sedgemoor, Hinkley Point does offer a unique opportunity over the next few years. EDF Energy and its partners will invest £18bn over the next decade in Sedgemoor and West Somerset into the first new nuclear power station in the UK in a generation. It will create 25,000 on-site jobs spread over a decade, and lead to hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the local economy. Significant investment has already been secured into the town; through the Innovation Centre at Dunball; at the College and in the Cannington Bypass.

We, as one of the two host councils for the project, fully welcome these benefits and are working hard to maximise their impact; working with Somerset Chamber on helping local businesses secure contracts to supply the site and its contractors; working with Somerset County Council and West Somerset to deliver a range of economic and social projects for our residents; and working with EDF and Government to make sure that funding and flexibilities are provided to secure a positive legacy for our community.

However, despite rosy views elsewhere, we can’t ignore that the development will also bring real challenges.

We are all aware of how fragile the transport system in and around Bridgwater is, with Hinkley likely to add significant additional pressures. We have made it clear to both EDF and Somerset County Council throughout that there will be challenges over the next few years, and that disruption must be minimised. This follows on from the case we made to the Secretary of State through the planning process for Hinkley and will remain a priority for us as we move forward.

Similarly, we are working hard with partners on issues around Housing and Employment, recognising that Hinkley may place new pressures on those seeking to rent or buy a new home or on businesses looking to recruit. It is crucial that, whilst Hinkley delivers on time and to budget, it is not at the expense of the local community and our shared economy.

It is right to feel optimistic about Hinkley. It will change the lives of many of those in Bridgwater and the wider Somerset area for the better over the next decade, offering careers, new business and new opportunities in ways we cannot yet predict. Keeping a balanced view however, which recognises that the headline billions will only translate into local opportunity through ongoing effort, is going to be vital as we now approach mobilisation and beyond.

Duncan McGinty

Leader, Sedgemoor District Council