The Crown Estate has completed the plan level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the 2017 project extension applications, confirming that 2.8 GW of new capacity, across seven projects, will now progress to the award of rights
The HRA, which The Crown Estate has undertaken as a requirement of the Habitats Regulations, assesses the possible impact of the proposed windfarm extensions on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance.
Throughout its assessment process, The Crown Estate, supported by expert independent advisors, has consulted with the statutory marine planning authorities, the statutory nature conservation bodies and non-governmental stakeholders.
The seven extensions are at the Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon, Greater Gabbard, Galloper, Rampion, Gwynt y Môr and Thanet offshore windfarms.
The developers of the seven extensions will now progress with project specific environmental assessments and surveys before seeking planning consent for their projects through the statutory planning process.
The Crown Estate has published its ‘Appropriate Assessment,’ which includes an overview of the HRA methodology, on the Marine Data Exchange, along with the technical report which informed it (known as The Report to Inform the Appropriate Assessment).
To help developers’ consider the location of their transmission system infrastructure including export cabling, The Crown Estate has developed a cable route protocol which has been incorporated into the HRA.
The Crown Estate also received an application for the Race Bank extension project as part of the 2017 extension opportunity. Much of the site for this proposed extension sits within the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Based on the best available evidence, the plan level HRA determined it would not be possible to rule out an adverse effect on the integrity of the SAC. The Race Bank extension project will therefore not progress to the award of leasing rights as part of the 2017 extensions round.
In such a scenario, there is an option to consider pursuing a derogation case under the Habitats Regulations. As a first for the offshore wind sector, this would be a significant undertaking, in conjunction with a broad range of stakeholders, and would cause a delay to the award of rights for the seven other proposed extension projects. The Crown Estate has therefore decided not to pursue this route at this time, but will continue to work with the developers of Race Bank extension and with stakeholders, to consider next steps.
The Crown Estate will build on the work undertaken as part of the HRA for 2017 extensions to help inform planning for future leasing. At this stage, it remains open to all available options under the Habitats Regulations for Round 4, including pursuing a derogation, where appropriate.
The Crown Estate head of energy development Will Apps said, “Project extensions offer an efficient opportunity to unlock almost a 10% increase in the UK offshore wind portfolio, supporting the continued growth of the development pipeline and demonstrating continued strong market appetite for new projects in UK waters.
“In today’s increasingly busy sea-space, a collaborative approach will become all the more crucial, ensuring that the continued ambitious growth of offshore wind happens in balance with the wide range of other interests offshore. We will continue to work closely with customers, stakeholders and government to address spatial challenges, in support of responsible, future deployment of UK offshore wind.”