Thursday, 11 March 2010

Should Anglesey be 'paid' to host the Wylfa power station?

There has been much fuss regarding the establishment by the government of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), a body set up to fast-track planning applications for so-called "nationally significant infrastructure projects" so as to save them being held up or halted by unwilling local authorities and public inquiries. This is important to Anglesey residents as potentially the decision to grant planning permission to a second nuclear reactor at Wylfa could be adjudicated by this body.

However, the Conservatives - who have every chance of forming a government in May - are pledged to abolish the IPC on the grounds that it is anti-democratic insomuch that it transfers certain planning decisions away from elected local authorities and ministers and instead puts them in the hands of unelected appointees. Under Conservative proposals the decision therefore whether to grant planning permission to Wylfa B will be devolved back to the Secretary of State.

Frankly neither of these processes are entirely satisfactory as the ultimate decision on whether Wylfa B goes ahead or not will be taken a long way from the people of Anglesey - who will ultimately have to live with the presence of the new reactor. Now, the Druid is personally 100% behind Wylfa B and believes that the jobs created by its construction and operation will be crucial to the future prosperity of the Island - however its also fair to say that Anglesey, the poorest county in the UK, is 'taking the strain' in hosting a critical piece of the UK's national energy infrastructure which is unwanted elsewhere and should therefore be rewarded above and beyond the jobs which the plant will generate.

The maverick Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan may not be to everyones taste but he is always a thoughtful and original political thinker. In his Telegraph column this week he describes how some US States have come up with a very interesting way of incentivising local communities to 'host' unpopular but necessary state-wide installations such as power stations or incinerators. He writes:

"The answer here, surely, is to allow local communities to put a price on accepting them. Let us say that a county wants an incinerator, and identifies a dozen potential sites. It should then invite the local authorities from each affected area to submit a sealed bid, stating how much it would want in return for accepting the facility. The one to submit the cheapest bid would win.
The council could then spend the fee as it wished: it could give residents a tax rebate, write them cheques, or use the money for something else. A similar system works successfully in a number of US states. Apart from anything else, it would encourage local people to weigh the costs and benefits, instead of automatically opposing every proposal on grounds that it is being forced on them from outside. Tell a group of people that they must take a mobile phone mast, and they will understandably protest. Invite them to sell permission for a site … and they might take a different attitude."

Obviously one can foresee a lot of problems with this approach which would need to be ironed out - but to the Druid it makes a lot more sense than the current systems outlined above.

And imagine what a huge difference a significant annual payment for hosting Wylfa B could make to the whole island - especially if it was invested wisely by the council in an economically sustainable way such as, for example, reducing rates for local businesses thereby both boosting employment and incentivising new businesses to setup on the island. Sounds good to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an old post but I have always thought that locals should benefit from their resources in the same way that people in the SE of England benefit from the local economy.

Since the sea and low population are resources that are required by the power station, I think that everyone living on Anglesey should have a 25%-40% reduction in their electricity bill until the waste is cleared away in 90 years time (or whatever it is).

In this way the mis/fortune of having a nuclear power station on your doorstep is shared out amongst the people who are going to benefit/die first in the event of an accident. Plus the cost of living/overheads are reduced.