THE effects of Hinkley C are already beginning to be felt on the West Somerset housing market.
Estate agents say the value of buy-to-let properties is on the increase and rent prices are rising as hundreds of employees move into the Somerset area to work on Europe’s largest construction project.
However, although house prices are on the increase in West Somerset, experts in the sector say it is too early to draw a direct correlation with the new power plant.
Simon Hawley, partner at Fox and Sons in Minehead, said that house prices from June to June in West Somerset rose by 3.6 per cent, but this was likely down to historic under-supply and high-demand, particularly for houses worth £250,000 or less.
“You can have a house become available in that section of the market and very quickly have four or five interested parties. They seem to get snapped up very quickly and I think that drives up prices” Mr Hawley said.
However Mr Hawley did say that the Minehead area had seen a lot of development in the past few years with the development of Ellicombe Meadows and Dunster Marsh.
He said another big issue affecting West Somerset was the relative rise in house value compared to other parts of England.
“Relatively speaking house prices are cheap here – older people from out of the area are drawn to the slower way of life and if you think you can buy a three bedroom house here for around £250,000 when two bedroom flats in swankier parts of Berkshire are £600,000 you can see the appeal,” Mr Hawley said.
He said that workers on site at Hinkley seemed to be looking to rent as cheaply as possible, with many of them even travelling home on weekends.
“However you are seeing landlords interested in properties they can sub-let to Hinkley workers. We have sold a handful of properties to more senior workers at Hinkley but it has not taken off yet,” Mr Hawley added.
Nick Zorab, officer manager at the Williton branch of Chanin and Thomas, said the main effects were being felt in the rental sector rather than for those purchasing permanent homes.
“The people working on Hinkley at the moment are mainly construction workers and they are mainly opting to rent rather than buy,” Mr Zorab said.
“This has pushed up prices for buy to let properties but house prices in general have not been affected in a major way yet.”
He said the majority of the people who would be on site in the long term had not arrived yet, and expected a more noticeable increase when they started to arrive in year three of the project.
Mr Zorab said: “In West Somerset rents have been most affected in Watchet and Williton. The new park and ride will be situated at Washford Cross as those areas are in the prime location. There is little parking on site at Hinkley, and EDF have done this on purpose to encourage less traffic on the Bridgwater Road.”
Sue Clowes, manager at the West Somerset Advice Bureau said the early effects had not been quite what was expected.
“We have not seen the full impact yet but what we have seen so far is that Hinkley workers are seeking the lowest priced accommodation to rent,” she said.
“We were anticipating that workers would want slightly more expensive, nicer accommodation and local residents would get pushed down to smaller accommodation, but actually the workers are snapping up the cheapest places available.”
West Somerset Council said it recognises that the arrival of construction workers on the Hinkley Point C site will have an impact on an already pressured housing market.
A WSC spokesman said: “Thanks to significant funding secured through planning agreements with EDF, a number of new initiatives are being undertaken that will help to increase the number of homes and bed spaces in both council areas.”
Schemes in West Somerset include:
– Rent deposit scheme to help people into the private rented sector
– New affordable housing: 12 families have found homes in Williton and a further 16 homes will soon be available in Watchet
– West Somerset Lodging Scheme
– Empty Homes loans – has helped families and landlords bring long term empty properties back into use
There are also a range of other initiatives available to help those looking for housing, such as subsidised loans for first time buyers and the Somerset Homelet website providing help and free advertising for landlords
David Eccles, EDF Energy’s head of stakeholder engagement for Hinkley Point C, said: “Hinkley Point C is already providing huge opportunities for the local area and the project will inject £200 million annually into the regional economy.
“We continue to support the provision of local accommodation and have committed £5 million to the local authorities to increase the supply of suitable housing for both our workers and for local people.”