The hidden cost of accommodation

Although a large number of people will be housed in the Bridgwater area, North Somerset is also expecting to be housing workers for the construction at Hinkley. But will people lose out due to the large number of new workers?

In November 2010, approximately 66% of households in the private rented sector in North Somerset were on housing benefit. The district is expected to be housing around 12% of the temporary workers on Hinkley Point C.


According to a report by North Somerset Council, it is likely that some of the workers looking for inexpensive accommodation throughout the construction of Hinkley Point C would be competing with those reliant on housing benefit. The report states: “This is likely to lead to a further increase in demand for those properties, thus pushing rents up, potentially to a point higher than those on housing benefit can afford.”

Furthermore, the report states that, due to changes in housing benefit no longer being paid directly to landlords, Hinkley Point construction workers would have a better chance of being offered private rented tenancies than local people on housing benefits. The report states: “This would mean that there would be even fewer properties available to those people that the Council has a duty to house. This is compounded by the fact that the Council only secured 42 affordable housing completions in 2011/12 (due in the main to changes to Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) funding of affordable homes) and only one of these completions was for social rent.”

Another issue highlighted is the reduction in full housing benefit in under-occupied homes, known as the “Bedroom Tax.” The report states: “The housing and homelessness charity Shelter expects more larger homes in the private rented sector will be used as shared houses to meet this new demand (and because landlords are likely to be able to command more rent from multiple households), leading to a shortage of larger homes for families.” Therefore, it appears likely that, in order to minimise losses, shared houses for workers at Hinkley Point C will become more common, at the cost of a reduced number of houses for families in need.

Kay Topazio, Housing Strategy & Enabling manager at North Somerset Council, feels that the council can assist both people in housing need, as well as those workers coming in to work at Hinkley Point. He said: “We have a range of incentives for landlords to encourage them to continue to and provide new accommodation for households, including those on housing benefit. Some examples of these are deposit guarantees, rent in advance, private sector leasing schemes and tenant finding.

“Working proactively with landlords enables us to be prepared for increased demands on the sector, which is likely to be when construction at Hinkley Point reaches its peak in five or six years.

“Despite our low delivery during 2011-2012, we are are currently delivering over and above our target of 150 affordable homes per year. Furthermore, we are pleased to say that North Somerset Council negotiated just under £700,000 to mitigate against any likely pressures on the private rented market by workers at Hinkley Point.


“We have been in close dialogue with our colleagues in the other local authorities within the Hinkley C impact area, as well as EDF Energy, for a number of years, and we have been able to influence the mitigation funds distribution as well as give suggestions for the types of mitigation measures that should be put in place prior to and during the construction phase.

“This means we have a clear understanding of the housing market and can share good practice with our colleagues, ensuring initiatives to increase supply in the private sector are complementary to other local authorities and meet the needs of not only those in housing need, but also those seeking employment and accommodation as part of the construction of Hinkley C.”

However, are still high hopes that the accommodation market in Bridgwater will benefit from the workers. Follow this link to find out more.

The accommodation situation: homes for workers at Hinkley Point

Accommodation is likely to become a key issue in the run-up to expansion at Hinkley Point. EDF Energy estimate that the period of construction over nearly 10 years will provide 25,000 employment opportunities, with estimates of 5,000 workers in the area at a time.

Current statistics listing the number of construction workers at Hinkley Point show that about half of the workforce are already permanent residents in Somerset. EDF claim that, of the 282 construction workers on site in 2012, 144 (51%) were permanent Somerset residents, and 43 (15%) were permanent residents from outside of Somerset, but within their assumed daily commute zone, which stretches from Devon in the West to Bristol in the east, and includes parts of Dorset and South Wales. 95 of the construction workers, or 34% of the workforce, were permanent residents outside of the assumed daily commute zone.

However, given that expansion will bring in many more construction workers, it is likely that a large workforce will need to be brought in from other areas. To this end, EDF Energy has pledged to build accommodation for 2,000 people, with one block being based on-site, and the other being based in Bridgwater. However, this would still leave around 3,000 workers relying on the local housing market in the surrounding area and Bridgwater.


Matt Nicklin helps run Accommodation Hinkley, a site that helps connect people coming to work at Hinkley Point with accommodation, be it spare rooms, apartments or spare holiday homes.

Accommodation Hinkley has humble beginnings. Matt said: “Me and a friend made a website to advertise places to stay at my pub – and we decided to expand it so that people can advertise their own places on it. We found that it actually works – people are using it to find accommodation.”

Matt has high hopes for the development at Hinkley Point C. He said: “Rents haven’t been as high recently, but I hope that the number of people coming, the demand will help me to put prices back up, to help my business.”

“Things slowed down and rents dropped when C station was mothballed a few years back, and there’s still speculation that it could happen again, but hopefully things will hold up this time. We aim a lot of our accommodation at security – they’re the first people to arrive, and the last to leave, so we didn’t suffer too badly.”

He doesn’t fear that there won’t be enough places for workers. “EDF say there will be 25,000 temporary jobs in construction, but that should only be about 5000 at a time. They are building accommodation for 2,000 people, so 3,000 will need to be taken up by local businesses. A lot of people knew what was going to happen with Hinkley Point C, and have invested in accommodation, so hopefully there shouldn’t be a shortage.”

The homes for 2,000 people will be based in two primary locations – space for 500 people on-site at Hinkley Point, with the rest located at a campus in Bridgwater itself, near to Bridgwater College.

Matt does have worries about how the development will affect the housing market in the area. He said: “It is difficult, though. You don’t really know how the local area will hold up – I mean, this is going to be the biggest building site in Europe when it gets the go ahead. Normally, you notice a bit of an influx in the area, but not everything is full.

“Also, some of them will get long-term jobs, and eventually buy their own properties closer to the station.

“There are funds in place for a variety of things, to upgrade fire alarms and for home improvements. They’re really trying to get the local community involved in renting spare rooms.”

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger also addressed the issue of housing. In my interview with him, he said: ” We’ve been building, and we’re going to continue building houses – We’re going to build executive houses, we’re going to build one, two and three-bedroom houses. We are not going to build rabbit hutches – we’re going to build houses that people want to live in.”

Matt’s primary worry about the expansion is road transport. He said: “When they’re changing staff on the site, I can sometimes wait up to 20 minutes in traffic. There is limited road access to the site, only one road, and the work means that lorries will constantly be coming and going. If a vehicle breaks down or there is an accident on this road, everything is going to stop – there is no alternative way in.”

Others are worried that the number of construction workers will affect those on housing benefit.