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.