The Planning Inspectorate in the UK has confirmed that the application for the 2.4-GW Hornsea Project Three offshore windfarm has finally been given development consent
The application was submitted for consideration back in May 2018 and accepted for examination on 8 June 2018, but a final decision was delayed by concerns about the potential effects of the development on seabirds, including kittiwakes.
Following a six-month examination during which the public, statutory consultees and interested parties were given the opportunity to give evidence to the examining authority, a recommendation was made to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Alok Sharma on 2 July 2019.
Following a request for further information and comments from interested parties, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a letter stating that he was minded to approve the application subject to further information from the applicant and interested parties on a number of issues, including potentially adverse effects on seabirds.
To allow time for the applicant, Ørsted, to submit further information by 30 September 2020 and to allow for consultation on the further information with interested parties, the Secretary of State set a new deadline of 31 December 2020 for his decision on the application.
Planning Inspectorate chief executive Sarah Richards said, “When examining the application and making their recommendation, the examining authority took full account of views from communities, particularly those near the northeast coast of England who might be affected by this proposal, alongside national policy and evidence of the need for the project.”
Responding to the announcement by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ørsted head of UK region Duncan Clark said, “We are delighted to confirm that Hornsea Three offshore windfarm has been granted consent by the Secretary of State.
“This determination is the culmination of a thorough and rigorous process which ensures that the project can deliver much needed clean energy at scale for the UK, whilse ensuring the potential environmental impacts of the project are minimised.
“We have worked closely with key stakeholders to develop a robust compensation plan focused on the implementation of onshore artificial nesting structures specifically designed for kittiwake.
“The unique compensation plan for Hornsea Three demonstrates that the industry can continue to deliver on the Government’s offshore wind ambition of 40 GW by 2030 in a sensitive and environmentally responsible way.
“We would like to thank Shoney Wind for providing specialist knowledge on kittiwake artificial nesting towers. We’d like to thank everyone involved in the project to date for the productive discussions, feedback and comments that have helped shape and refine our proposals.
“Climate change remains a very serious threat to our environment and habitats and there is an ever pressing need to act. Once complete, Hornsea Three could provide clean power to over 2M UK homes and offset over 128.2M tonnes of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. It will make a significant contribution towards meeting the UK’s net zero commitments and in the crucial fight against climate change. We will now be reviewing the full Development Consent Order and will continue to work closely with stakeholders and local communities as we take the project forward.”
According to Shoney Wind and Ørsted, the ‘purpose-built, modular, adaptable, and relocatable artificial kittiwake towers’ take account of environmental factors such as wind direction and sun exposure and include internal access to breeding kittiwakes via a stairwell and internal cabin.
The designs facilitate direct access to the birds and enable ornithologists to undertake comprehensive monitoring of birds, their nests and their young. The Shoney Wind designs include supplementary feeding mechanisms successfully pioneered by Shoney Wind’s collaborator, the Institute for Seabird Research and Conservation in Anchorage, Alaska.
Shoney Wind director Nathalie Stevenson said, “Shoney Wind’s kittiwake nesting and feeding towers have the potential, if deployed in the right locations, to offset collision mortality and thus enable the growing UK offshore wind industry to coexist with kittiwakes.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has long opposed the project, although it supports offshore wind and renewable energy development. It has stated in the past that compensating for Hornsea Project Three “may be impossible.”
RSPB director for global conservation Martin Harper described the decision as “nothing short of a gamble with the future of our globally important kittiwakes.”
Mr Harper said, “The Government has accepted that the expansion of offshore wind turbines in this part of the North Sea will be damaging to seabird numbers in the surrounding area and is putting its faith in an unproven compensation scheme that will attempt to balance the loss of globally important seabirds at one site by encouraging numbers elsewhere.
“We hope they are right, but Government cannot be certain Ørsted’s compensation proposals will succeed. It may be a decade or more before we know if it has been successful, by which time Hornsea Three and many more projects will have been constructed and the damage to our seabird colonies at the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area in North Yorkshire may be irreversible.
“Industry alone cannot reconcile the challenge of increased deployment and threats to nature. These are a symptom of poor planning and must be urgently addressed by the UK Government if they are to deliver on their ambitious targets for offshore wind. We are keen to work with industry and planners across the UK to support the expansion of offshore wind in harmony with nature.”