Campaigning for nature
Image: Andy Hay
Able UK Ltd had submitted an application to the Infrastructure Planning Committee (now the National Infrastructure Directorate) for permission to build a marine energy park at Killingholme Marshes on the south bank of the Humber Estuary, which will service the offshore renewable energy industry.
The development would result in the loss of 45 hectares (112 acres) of estuarine habitat, which internationally important wildlife relies on heavily for its survival. We are concerned that the proposed compensation package to offset this loss is insufficient and not fit for purpose. For this reason we objected to the application and actively engaged in the examination process, including attending all the nature conservation hearings, with the aim of securing measures that reduce the predicted impacts and compensates for any remaining damage that would be caused by this development.
The Humber estuary is vital for huge numbers of migrating and wintering birds who come from as far away as North America to feast on the calorie-rich invertebrates that live in the estuary mud. In late summer and autumn, hundreds of thousands of birds arrive on the Humber, transforming the estuary into a bustling avian airport. Some of the birds use the estuary as a stopover to refuel before continuing their migratory journey south, while many others stay there for the whole winter.
Such is the importance of the Humber, it has been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the European Habitats Directive, a Ramsar site, designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
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As a conservation organisation, we believe that climate change is the biggest current threat to the environment and that the development of the renewable energy sector is vital in reducing carbon emissions. Accordingly, we support the need for the development of the offshore wind industry in order to meet our climate and renewable energy targets. However, developers need to ensure that the necessary infrastructure either does not have a negative effect on the environment, or that any negative effects are minimised or addressed through compensation.
A prime example of this was the recent application by Associated British Ports (ABP) for the development of its Green Port Hull facility, which would be used to manufacture and construct offshore wind turbines. Working with the RSPB and other environmental groups, ABP showed their commitment to sustainable development by fully addressing the environmental impacts of their proposal, and putting in robust measures to minimise the predicted impacts and compensate for any remaining damage.
Unfortunately, we do not believe that Able UK have addressed all of the environmental issues in their application for the marine energy park. Due to the development resulting in the loss of 45 hectares (112 acres) of internationally important estuarine habitat, - heavily relied upon by wildlife for its survival - we are concerned that the proposed compensation package to offset this loss is insufficient and not fit for purpose. As a result, we objected to the application, with the aim of securing measures that both mitigate and compensate for any remaining damage that would be caused by this development if consent is granted.
We begin regular consultation meetings with Able UK and Natural England
Able UK consult upon their Preliminary Environmental Information Report for the Marine Energy Park
We submit our response to the Preliminary Environmental Information Report. The RSPB expresses concern that the application will cause damage to internationally important wildlife of the Humber Estuary and does not contain adequate measures to address the potential environmental impacts
Detailed pre-application consultation begins. Able UK seeks the views of organisations such as the RSPB and Natural England on some of the nature conservation issues raised by this proposal
Pre-application consultation continues. The RSPB reiterated its concerns that the application will cause damage to internationally important wildlife of the Humber Estuary and does not contain adequate measures to address the potential environmental impacts
The final pieces of information regarding nature conservation impacts are gathered and prepared for submission as part of the application for a Development Consent Order and Marine Licence to build the Marine Energy Park. The RSPB's concerns remain despite attempts to work with the applicant to find more appropriate solutions to addressing the impacts of the development on internationally important wildlife
Able UK submit their application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)
The IPC accept Able UK's application for examination
The period for registering an interest in the application opens
The IPC cease to exist and the National Infrastructure Directorate, which is a part of the Planning Inspectorate, is formed and will consider this application
The period for registering an interest in the application ends
Preliminary Meeting to be held in Immingham to discuss timetable and procedure for the Examination
Deadline for Written Representations and comments on Representations made so far
Several Issue Specific Hearings on nature conservation including regulatory requirements, proposed mitigation and compensation measures and planning conditions
Examination Authority issues recommendation to Secretary of State for Transport
Deadline for Secretary of State to make decision