As highlighted by OWJ on 1 July 2020, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma says he is minded to approve planning permission for Ørsted’s 2.4-GW Hornsea Project Three offshore windfarm but is seeking further input on environmental issues before he does so.
The question mark hanging over the project is whether the developer can successfully compensate for its effect on seabird populations and the cumulative effect on birds of Hornsea Project three and other nearby developments.
Ørsted says it is “confident of providing the evidence to ensure that consent will be granted later this year,” but the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is not confident that compensation can be achieved.
If adequate compensation cannot be achieved, it raises questions about the future of the project, unless the Secretary of State eventually rules that it is of national importance and should go ahead anyway. Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard project, which was approved this week, is going ahead against the recommendations of the Examining Authority.
Responding to the Secretary of State’s announcement, RSPB director for conservation Martin Harper said, “We welcome the decision on Hornsea Three offshore windfarm as it shows that the UK Government is finally addressing the challenge of reconciling demand for offshore wind and conservation of seabirds.
“Offshore wind is the right technology when we can find the right place for it. Governments across the UK have rightly set ambitious targets for offshore wind to help tackle climate change, but these must be supported by good planning to avoid damaging our most important areas for seabirds and other marine wildlife. We need to address the climate and ecological emergency in an integrated way.
“The Hornsea Three decision recognises that the predicted impacts from the scheme added to those from other windfarms already approved will be harmful to the UK’s globally important seabird colonies such as kittiwake at Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area in North Yorkshire.
“Ørsted will be under no illusion that proving they can deliver successful compensation that genuinely helps kittiwakes will be extremely difficult and we are concerned this may be impossible to achieve, however we are looking forward to working with the company to explore different options as well as support the government in assessing the viability of any proposals.”
Mr Harper said the decision to approve the 1.8 GW Norfolk Vanguard offshore windfarm – against the recommendations of the Examining Authority – was ‘very concerning.’
“If decision-makers continue to ignore the bigger picture resulting from adding more and more turbines into already crowded seas we risk losing our seabirds to ‘a thousand cuts’ where no individual scheme is responsible but collectively the impact is devastating,” he said.
As also highlighted by OWJ, a letter to Ørsted from the UK’s head of energy infrastructure planning Gareth Leigh highlighted the potential effects of the development of the offshore windfarm on birds such as kittiwakes and on certain special areas of conservation, and raised doubts about compensation measures that were proposed and whether those measures would ‘ensure overall coherence of Natura 2000 sites for kittiwakes.’
In the letter, Mr Leigh said the Secretary of State was requesting that that the developer provide a detailed compensation plan which gives confidence that any compensatory measures proposed will be sufficient to offset the impact to the kittiwake feature of the Flamborough and Filey Coast special protection area (SPA) and thereby maintain the coherence of the network of SPAs designated, at least in part, for kittiwake.
As highlighted here by OWJ, the effects on bird populations of the development and the cumulative effects of a number of offshore wind projects in the North Sea have raised concerns at the RSPB and other nature bodies.