Community Blog: From Caves to County Hall
HPC Community Relations Manager, Andrew Cockcroft
There is one thing that my role as Hinkley Point C’s Community Relations Manager is never short of and that’s variety. We are building much more than just a power station!
My work takes me across the county, working closely with all sorts of interesting people – from a meeting with the Local Enterprise Partnership to discussions with the Somerset Tourism Association on how to ensure local businesses benefit from the opportunities in construction of the new power station. There is never a dull moment.
One day recently stood out as particularly memorable so I’ll try to give you a flavour as best I can in this, my first in a series of blogs, that I hope will bring you a little closer to some of the work that can sometimes be hidden behind the scenes.
It was a typical winter morning in the West Country; dark, damp and more than a little chilly as I drove across the Somerset levels towards Wookey Hole, a small village buried deep in the Mendip Hills and home to a world famous network of limestone caves. Having grown up in Somerset, I could never have imagined that I would one day be returning to this major tourist site for a meeting of the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership. The group, set up in 2013, is in place to manage both the impacts and substantial benefits for the tourism sector from the construction of Hinkley Point C – a project that is set to provide around £100 million annually into the local economy during peak construction.
There are many groups like this set up by EDF Energy that cover almost every facet of the socio-economic spectrum, from how we work with the community to economic development in the region. Each group has its own unique mix of people and challenges but they are united by one common aim – to minimise potential impacts and maximise the opportunities and benefits for the local area through collaboration.
My meeting with the Hinkley Tourism Action Partnership that morning was interesting as a number of the different projects our group have been working on to develop, are now in operation. The initiatives, like many across the socio-economic field, are all fully funded by EDF Energy as part of our planning commitments for the new power station. In total, the agreement is worth about £100 million and funds everything from jobs, such as a specific Hinkley Point C Beat Team provided by Avon and Somerset Constabulary, to a dedicated £20 million Community Fund to ensure some of the more intangible impacts can be mitigated.
In the increasingly festive surroundings of the Wookey Hole offices, also used by Visit Somerset, we spent time analysing the results of a recent tourism monitoring survey we commissioned over the summer. As well as allowing us to keep track of what visitors thought of Hinkley Point C and other infrastructure developments in the area, it allows the local tourism industry to gain valuable market insight that will support campaigns to promote tourism in the region.
Following a quick lunch and catch up with CEO of Visit Somerset, John Turner, on arrangements for the Visit Somerset Tourism Conference later in the month, it was time to set a course for Taunton and County Hall for a meeting with the County and District Councils on how tourism and all the other socio-economic areas can be drawn together - a fitting end to yet another diverse and rewarding day on the Hinkley Point C Project.