Villagers stage Oldbury anti-nuclear protest

Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 07:00

Villagers living near the possible site of a new nuclear power station near Bristol staged a five-hour protest to prevent contractors getting on to the land.

Residents of Shepperdine, near Thornbury, blocked the access road to a field near the existing Oldbury atomic plant until they were finally asked to move by police.

The site is one of a number around the country put forward by the Government as a possible location for one of the new generation of nuclear stations.

Power firm Eon has acquired land at Shepperdine with another company RWE and wants to build a £4-billion station.

The process involved in getting permission will last for many years but as part of the initial site development work, small-scale ground investigation and seismic studies were due to have started yesterday morning on the Shepperdine land to help determine the type and best location for the foundations.

But when contractors from Almondsbury firm Hydrock arrived with lorries, they found their way blocked by the protesters.

About 13 residents occupied the lane leading to a field that has already been turned into a compound.

They said they had two concerns at this stage – whether permission had been given by the British Geological Survey (BGS) for the drilling to take place and whether South Gloucestershire Council had given the all-clear for the compound and parking area to be created.

Protester Reg Illingworth said: "Ultimately, we don't want a new nuclear power station here.

"But this protest is solely about permission for the preliminary work and the compound, which has already been built.

"We want to know if consent has been given and if we see that in writing, then we will stand aside."

At one point, four policemen were at the scene but that was later cut to two.

Acting sergeant Steve Wilson said: "It's a peaceful protest and we are here to ensure it remains that way."

There was also a debate throughout the morning about whether the road being blocked was part of the public highway or privately owned.

When it was confirmed it was a public road, the residents moved aside and the Hydrock lorries went through.

Alan Pinder, of South Gloucestershire Friends of the Earth, was among the demonstrators.

He said: "We want to ensure Eon is going through the proper process.

"You have to do everything by the book if you are going to run a nuclear power station."

Eon spokeswoman Emily Highmore said: "While we respect the right of people to protest, we would like to reassure everyone the ground investigation works and establishment of a contractor's compound have been carried out with the full knowledge of South Gloucestershire Council and the BGS.

"It's still very early days but we're committed to keeping everyone informed of our activities and would urge anyone with any questions or concerns to get in touch."

BGS spokesman Clive Mitchell said the organisation had to be notified about drilling of holes deeper than 30m for water abstraction and mineral exploration but not site investigation.

South Gloucestershire Council spokesman Ryan Skeets said: "The council was made aware of intentions by Eon to carry out some temporary ground investigation works that appear to be covered by permitted development rights and therefore would not require prior planning permission.

"The council will monitor these works to ensure they are being carried out in line with these intentions."