Campaigners opposing the Sizewell C nuclear power project have said Bill Turnbull’s legacy as an “amazing friend and supporter” of their cause will inspire them to “fight on”.
The former BBC Breakfast presenter’s death was announced on Thursday – the same day that Boris Johnson used his final policy speech to promote the nuclear scheme and pledged £700 million of taxpayers’ money towards it.
The reactor is expected to be built by energy firm EDF, close to Mr Turnbull’s home town of Theberton in Suffolk.
During the planning phase, Mr Turnbull gave a passionate speech warning of the “awful devastation” the project would have on the area.
Bill was an amazing friend and supporter but he and his family would want us to fight on, and we will, with all our hearts, to honour him
Stop Sizewell C
Protest group Stop Sizewell C said it was “devastated” by the newsreader’s death, describing him as an “amazing friend and supporter” whose legacy would inspire the group to further oppose the project.
The group said: “Bill was an amazing friend and supporter but he and his family would want us to fight on, and we will, with all our hearts, to honour him.
“We send our love and deepest condolences to all who knew him.”
Alison Downes, executive director of the group, said Mr Turnbull became increasingly involved after they met at a pub, and described him as having “this amazing can-do attitude”.
She told the PA news agency: “He was passionate about Minsmere, about Sizewell beach, about the sandlings. He loved walking the dogs all over this beautiful area.
“He was very driven by the wildlife.”
Ms Downes said Mr Turnbull was “always upbeat and always positive” and “very good at rousing” the campaigners through making videos, talking to the media, and hosting events where Sizewell C was discussed.
“He was enormously important to the campaign. He was a great supporter,” she said.
“But also, for me personally, he was something of a mentor, and he and his family were so supportive and they always had time to talk about the campaign and throw ideas around. And just the level of support they gave me was incredibly powerful.”
Ms Downes added: “He was an incredibly valuable source of help and support, and as a member of our community… All of us here in the village are just going to miss him enormously and we send our wholehearted condolences and love to his family.”
During a planning inspectorate hearing in 2021, Mr Turnbull spoke to oppose the plan “more in sorrow than protest” out of “fear” that a “beautiful, precious corner of Suffolk will fall victim to the most awful devastation”.
Mr Turnbull said he was speaking on behalf of “those who have no voice and who can reap only danger and destruction” from the project – “the rare and abundant wildlife that inhabits the land around Sizewell”.
The former journalist also cited “enormous disruption to business and livelihoods posed by EDF’s plan” as “reason enough to stop the project going ahead”.
Mr Turnbull said he and his wife lived two-and-a-half miles from the construction site and they had felt “blessed” to be surrounded by “extraordinary wildlife” in the area, including skylarks, marsh harriers and owls.
The outgoing Prime Minister has said he is confident the deal for the Sizewell C funding will get “over the line” in the coming weeks.