The impact of Somerset’s new nuclear neighbour
Taunton ( 61,000). This part of the West Country, sandwiched between the Quantock Hills and the Mendips, is beautiful in parts, yet has little of the romance or sailing tradition that characterise much of the rest of the region. There is also little development by the water, at least partly because the ageing and ugly Hinkley Point B power station – built between 1967 and 1976 – has hardly been conducive to attracting developers or secondhome buyers.
Now a wider area of north Somerset, for good or for bad, is about to undergo a transformation thanks to the latest plant. “Bridgwater is already unrecognisable,” says Gideon Sumption of Stacks Property Search, a buying agency, who praises the town council’s farsightedness at encouraging lowcost hotels and apartments to be built in good time to house Hinkley Point C’s building army.
“The workers at this stage are mostly short term, there for only one to two years, so they’re renting rather than buying. But in years to come, there will be people moving here for longer and they’ll buy,” believes Nick Zorab of Chanin & Thomas, an estate agency in Minehead.
Values are already rising rapidly in locations near Hinkley Point C: according to Zoopla, Minehead prices rose 3.7 per cent in the past year, with Taunton up 6.6 per cent and Bridgwater seeing a rise of 7.6 per cent. This is despite EDF itself building temporary accommodation units for 1,500 workers, helping to ease some of the housing supply shortage.
Investors are now flocking to the area. “It’s having a significant impact on new-build prices,” says auctioneer David Beddoe, director of the north Somerset division of Auction House. He says the most ambitious investors want large houses for renovation and old schools and nursing homes ripe for conversion; more modest ones are after two-bedroom homes, but now risk pricing out local first-time buyers who are seeking the same kind of properties.
Most agents say the long-term appeal of the area and the growing population mean that, once the plant is up and running, even the current glut of new accommodation can be absorbed. Between now and then, however, there will be blight issues for some.
Beddoe says some communities will be irritated by the problems that always plague such projects, such as contractors parking off-site and increased traffic and air pollution as a result of huge numbers of HGVs. “The development will potentially see a 50 per cent increase in such traffic, and this will be felt further afield in Bridgwater and Glastonbury,” he warns.
Some problems may go on even after the plant is operational. Robin Gould, who runs Savills’ buying arm Prime Purchase, is investigating the nearby eastern edge of Exmoor for a suitable home for a high net worth client. “I’m looking at the proposed pylon routes, of which there are three or four, as the power needs to be transported from Hinkley, which potentially will be a huge blight,” he warns.
However, others believe short-term pain may actually produce long-term gain for most in the area, despite the presence of what will be one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants.
“The consensus of public opinion now seems to be that nuclear is green and sustainable, not dirty and frightening. The negative effect on prices no longer exists to anything like the same extent as before,” says Sumption, of Stacks.
The streets of north Somerset may not quite be paved with gold, but for some at least they appear to be benefiting from the proximity of uranium.
Beere Manor in Cannington, £1.35 million with JacksonStops