Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
The First Minister convened the Hinkley Point C Stakeholder Reference Group in July 2020 to provide an independent assessment of the implications for Wales of the new nuclear power station currently being developed at Hinkley Point, in Somerset. The Group reported on its work in March 2021 and I have been considering their findings.
Firstly, I would like to reiterate the First Minister’s thanks to Jane Davidson for chairing the Group, and to the Group’s members for contributing their time and expertise.
I think we all recognise the benefits and insight provided by this independent Group. Given the members’ wide ranging experience and understanding of the complex issues involved, I have asked the Group to continue to provide the Welsh Government, where appropriate, with strategic, independent advice on a case-by-case basis.
As the First Minister noted at the time, the Group has delivered a wide ranging report which provides us with a valuable source of evidence and advice.
Having considered the findings, I recognise the complex and at times challenging governance arrangements in place at the coast, particularly in cross border areas where we share natural resources and the responsibility for their management with our neighbours. There is more we can do to join up and bring clarity to current arrangements.
I have asked officials to ensure our responsibilities for marine planning are delivered in a joined-up manner alongside those of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Further, I intend to publish an overview of marine sectoral governance arrangements for Wales and have asked officials to work jointly with the MMO to review planning policy and to clarify planning and licensing arrangements for the Severn Estuary. This will include ensuring clear arrangements are in place for cross border collaboration and that information on these arrangements is made widely available.
Our ambitions for resilient marine ecosystems and the sustainable management of our natural resources are clear. I will be writing to the UK Government commending to them the findings of the Group and highlighting the importance of considering major infrastructure developments in cross-border areas through the lens of devolved legislation and policy approaches, including those set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
Whilst it is important that we set our own agenda and policy direction, I see value in joined up approaches to complex problems. I want to ensure our marine protected areas are well managed and that we take every opportunity to enhance the wider marine ecosystem. At the same time, the imperative of addressing climate change and decarbonising our economy, including through harnessing energy from our seas, increases by the day. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report sets out a stark warning which we all must heed and act upon.
In response to these twin challenges, my officials will review the developing policy approaches in England to the delivery of marine renewable energy projects alongside securing ecosystem benefits.
The Group’s report also reminds us of the need for regulation which is clear and beyond reproach. My officials will work with NRW to ensure the marine licensing process continues to be delivered to the current high standard and provide clarity on roles and responsibilities, ensuring it is clear to all that controls are in place to ensure separation of duties between the regulator and its advisors.
Finally, we will ensure any modelling undertaken, as part of the licensing process in relation to the disposal of sediment at sea, uses the most appropriate evidence and assumptions. All modelling undertaken to inform marine disposal decisions will be made widely available before any decision is taken.
Once again, I thank the Group for its work of and look forward to engaging with them in the future as we work to deliver the priorities set out in the Programme for Government.