Planning Inspectorate decides against Hinkley C appeal for fish screening

Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate has rejected an appeal by the under-construction Hinkley C nuclear power plant in the Bristol Channel against the requirement for a state-of-the-art acoustic fish deterrent on its cooling water intake.

EDF Energy is developing a new nuclear power generating plant at Hinkley Point near Bridgwater, Somerset.  Called Hinkley C, it will replace the current Hinkley B which replaced Hinkley A.

In developing an Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) permit for the site, the Environment Agency had specified, amongst many other conditions, that the cooling water intake for the plant should have an acoustic fish deterrent (AFD), to minimise the entrainment and killing of potentially millions of fish every year.    

The Bristol Channel and associated estuaries, e.g. Severn, Wye, Usk, have several designations for their conservation value, eg.  Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar Site, Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and European Marine Site (EMS).

Hinckley C. Credit EDF

It is home to a multitude of marine species, and also a migration pathway for designated species such as the Allis and Twaite Shads, Atlantic Salmon and European eel.  The Bristol Channel probably sees more of each of those vulnerable species than any other in England and Wales.  So, the Environment Agency set a requirement for AFD in the permit, to provide the best possible protection for these fish species and conservation areas.

However, being state-of-the-art, AFD is also the most expensive option, and the current owners of the site, NNB Genco, appealed against the condition.

This led to a public inquiry to consider the appeal, which was held by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2021.  A consortium of environmental NGOs, including the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM), made representations at the appeal to support the Environment Agency’s position, urging the Inspectorate to reject the appeal and to retain the AFD requirement for maximum fish protection.

Key points that IFM made to the inquiry were:

  1. To put the volume of the cooling water intake into perspective;  it is to be 132 cubic metres per second.  That is greater than the dry weather flow of all the rivers that drain into the Bristol Channel.
  2. That a state-of-the-art nuclear power generation plant in the 21st century should expect state-of-the-art fish screening in such a sensitive area.  Nuclear power might be low carbon, but that doesn’t mean we can treat sensitive fish species with impunity.

On 2 September 2022 the Planning Inspectorate published its inquiry report and Defra wrote to NNB Genco to say that their appeal was rejected, and that the requirement for an acoustic fish deterrent is to be retained.

Key to the Inspectorate reaching its decision was for the protection of the assemblage of vulnerable fish species that are central to the array of conservation designations in the Bristol Channel.

David Bunt, Chief Executive with the Institute of Fisheries management said: “This is a fantastic result for the environment and for fish in particular.  I am delighted that we and other environmental organisations have presented such a compelling case to the Inspectorate that it found in favour of protecting the environment, over saving some costs to a multi-billion pound electricity generating scheme. For once, this feels like a big win for fish!  Our congratulations and thanks to the Environment Agency for specifying this condition, and also defending it so robustly at the Inquiry.”

The IFM’s marine expert, Steve Colclough, appeared as an expert witness at the Inquiry on behalf of a third party group, Severn Estuary Interests (a collaborative effort by the Wildlife Trusts, Wetlands and Wildfowl and others.  Blue Marine also formally supported the collaboration with the provision of legal expertise.

To understand more about the appeal, decision and our contributions, you can read:

For more information contact:

David Bunt                  Chief Executive           07770 793900             [email protected]

Notes for Editors

The Institute of Fisheries Management is the leading independent organisation in the UK and Ireland dedicate to professional and sustainable fisheries management.