Campaigning for nature
Image: Daniel Pullan
In January 2010, Eneco, a Dutch energy company, was successful in securing exclusive rights from the Crown Estate to develop an offshore wind park off the Dorset coast. In April 2012 Eneco was joined by French energy company EDF in promoting this scheme who bought a 50% stake in the project. The area of seabed lies approximately 8.9 miles south east of Durlston Head on the Isle of Purbeck and 10.7 miles south west of Scratchell's Bay on the Isle of Wight, and covers some 59 square miles.
The project, known as Navitus Bay Wind Park, if built will generate a maximum of 970MW. According to Eneco/EDF this is enough energy to power some 710,000 homes.
Generating energy from renewable resources is of crucial importance in the fight to stave off the worst excesses of climate change. The south west is blessed with a geography and climate that should be able to support a vibrant renewable energy industry. And offshore wind farms are part of the mix. However, while there is a great prize to be won here in terms of renewable energy generation, we need to work hard to ensure that any renewable energy developments are sited in the right places.
Birds do collide with wind turbines, much in the way they collide with a variety of other man-made objects. While collision mortality rarely causes detrimental effects to bird populations we are keen to ensure as best we can that wind farms do not cause significant additional pressure. As well as collision risk we also consider impacts such as disturbance and cumulative effects as a consequence of construction, operation and decommissioning of wind farms.
The Devon, Dorset and Hampshire coasts are important for thousands of wintering and migrating birds. They also have important breeding bird populations. Many areas of both the coastline and its hinterland are designated as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the European Birds Directive and as Ramsar sites, designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
We anticipate that many thousands of birds will pass through the area proposed to be occupied by the offshore wind park, on migration. The implications of the wind park on these bird movements needs to be fully assessed. The implications of constructing the onshore cable route also need full assessment.
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In May 2014 Navitus Bay Development Limited (NBDL), the company established by Eneco and EDF to develop the wind park, submitted their project for consent, together with supporting information including an Environmental Statement (ES), which details the implications of building, operating, maintaining and ultimately decommissioning the wind farm on all important environmental features including wildlife. The project is currently being examined by the Planning Inspectorate and Public Hearings are underway.
It is highly unlikely that Navitus Bay if constructed would not harm some birds, much in the same way every year many birds die in collision with windows, pylons and many other man-made objects. However, birds dying in collision with objects, whilst regrettable, does not necessarily lead to negative effects on bird populations.
So, the key question for us is whether this development will cause such additional and regular mortality that it will lead to long-term declines.
We have now completed our analysis of the ES and further information presented by NBDL, and have submitted our responses to the Planning Inspectorate (versions of which you can download from this page).
On the basis of the ornithological information submitted, it is unlikely that the offshore elements of the wind park will have significant adverse impacts on bird populations. However, the RSPB requires more work to be done on gannet populations before it is completely satisfied with the project.
In terms of other wildlife, the RSPB does have some outstanding concerns over the effect of the project on Atlantic salmon, but we defer to Natural England and the Environment Agency's expertise on this matter. It is important to bear in mind that our position is based on our interpretation of the ES, which in turn is based on our experience of dealing with similar planning cases. But ultimately a judgment must be made on the significance of potential impacts. Others may judge the matter differently – and we respect that.
Ultimately, it is the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State that will weigh the evidence and make a decision on the construction of this Wind Park.
NBDL submitted details of a 'Mitigation Option' to the Public Hearings. This proposes a maximum of 105 turbines in the southern section of the offshore development area. The Planning Inspectorate confirmed on January 13 2015 that the Mitigation Option could be included in the existing Examination.
The Examination closed on 11 March 2015. The Planning Inspectorate submitted its report to the Secretary of State on 11 June 2015, and a decision is expected on or before 11 September 2015.
Eneco secures exclusive rights to develop an offshore wind park within 279 square miles of seabed off the Dorset coast (known as Zone 7) with a maximum capacity of 900-1200MW.
Eneco produce their Site Selection and ZAP (Zone Appraisal and Planning). It identifies an area in the north of Zone 7 of 77 square miles which Eneco intend to develop as the wind park.
Eneco produce their Detailed Preliminary Environmental Information (PEI) explaining what their research and surveying has identified to date. They also produce a Detailed Statement of Community Consultation.
RSPB submit comments on the PEI to Enerco
Eneco plan further rounds of consultation with stakeholders during 2012 and 2013.
Eneco/EDF modify scheme reducing number and size of turbines.
RSPB responds to the Proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park Preliminary Environmental Information 3 (see downloads)
Eneco/EDF have submit their project for consent, together with supporting information including an Environmental Statement (ES)
Deadline for registration of interested parties on 23 June in advance of public examination of the application. Each interested party submits a 500 word 'relevant representation' to the Planning Inspectorate. These can all be read here.
Deadline for Written Representations 20 October by all interested parties. These can all be read here.
Deadlines for comments on Written Representations 5 November by all interested parties. These can all be read here.
Issue-specific hearings begin.
NBDL submitted details of a 'Mitigation Option' to the Public Hearings. This proposes a maximum of 105 turbines in the southern section of the offshore development area. The Planning Inspectorate confirmed that the Mitigation Option could be included in the existing Examination.
Deadline for further representations 29 January 2015, by interested parties, including on Examining Authority’s Second Written Questions . These can all be read here.
Deadline for further representations 5 March 2015, by interested parties, including on responses to Examining Authority’s Second Written Questions. These can all be read here.
The Planning Inspectorate submits its report to the Secretary of State. A decision is expected on or before 11 September 2015.