The second biggest hotel in Europe is in a quiet Somerset town.
In Bridgwater, just a few miles from the M5, a brand new huddle of buildings has become a temporary home to nearly 1,000 people. Or, more specifically, nearly 1,000 men.
The hotel was built by French energy giant EDF as a place to house the growing number of workers building the UK’s next nuclear power station, Hinkley C, which is itself the biggest building site in Europe.
The hotel, and the effect of 1,000 new people in Bridgwater, is the subject of a one-off BBC Radio 4 documentary fronted by BBC presenter Emma Britton.
The documentary, ‘Not the Biggest hotel in Europe’, follows the life-long Bridgwater resident as she finds out what the hotel means for the town.
“I’ve always lived here and I reckon barring a lottery win I probably always will,” Emma says.
The figures for construction of Hinkley are extraordinary: at its height it will need 5,600 workers, bringing 20,000 people to the area and costing twice that of the entire 2012 Olympics.
All of that requires infrastructure and EDF believes it has found the solution: building accommodation for 1,000 people (adding to a pre-existing campus with 500 beds), and using a fleet of buses to cart them from Bridgwater to the Hinkley C site on the coast.
The hotel is known as ‘Sedgemoor Campus’ and is just a few minutes’ walk from Emma’s home.
Although the hotel is bringing prosperity to the area – creating jobs and bringing new restaurants and shops to the town – some are worried about house prices rocketing, traffic increasing and parking being swallowed up.
Some even predict this new influx of men could lead to more divorces and pop-up brothels.
“I grew up in the shadow of Hinkley. I think I was more accepting of it as a type of power because so many people I knew worked there,” said Emma.
“For me this programme is about my home town of Bridgwater, which I love, and the impact on my hometown of not actually the building of a nuclear power station but what that comes with, and what that’s come with around the corner from my house.”