885: Hornsea Three finally gets approved, Wylfa soldiers on
Today’s entry focuses on the approval of the Hornsea Three offshore windfarm.
There have been a few developments since the last blog post on 18 December, which will be caught up on over the next couple of entries. Here is a summary.
An application was made on 30 December for the A47 Blofield to North Burlingham project in Norfolk.
The Hornsea Three Offshore windfarm application was approved on 31 December, which was the current deadline after four delays. More details below.
The Wylfa nuclear power station application was due to be approved on the same day but has been delayed for a record fifth time for another four months, ie until 30 April 2021. This was at the applicant’s request. Subsequent news reports (such as this one) suggest that applicant Horizon Nuclear Power is being wound up (or down), but there nevertheless do appear to be potential buyers, so the project may survive.
The first application for a business or commercial project was made, actually on 31 December but after the close of business so recorded as 4 January, for the London Resort, a proposed theme park and entertainment complex next to Ebbsfleet station in north Kent. I may be biased but this is the coolest DCO application to date.
The A38 Derby Junctions application was granted on 8 January, and will be covered in the next blog entry.
The M25 Junction 10 application was supposed to be decided by 12 January but has been delayed for four months for ‘further consultation’, although at the time of writing this had not been issued.
Finally today, 15 January, in a first the Examining Authority for the South Humber Bank Energy Centre application has authorised the conduct of a site visit by drone (or unmanned aerial vehicle, as he calls it) and has asked for a flight plan. Read the letter here.
So, to the Hornsea Three project. Here are the facts and figures.
- project: an up to 2400 MW wind farm off the coast of Norfolk;
- promoter: Ørsted (whom I recently saw won a challenge in the Danish Supreme Court by the eponymous scientist’s descendants to use that name);
- application made: 14 May 2018;
- four inspectors, David Prentis (his second project), Guy Rigby (his third), David Cliff (his first), Roger Catchpole (his first);
- 150 relevant representations – about average;
- 65 written representations – high;
- 711 questions in the first round, very high;
- two compulsory acquisition hearings, 10 issue specific hearings and three open floor hearings – very high;
- three Local Impact Reports, Norfolk, Broadland and North Norfolk;
- examination exactly months, recommendation exactly three months, decision just short of 18 months, 15 months late;
- 962 days from application to decision, over 30 months, second longest only to Wylfa; and
- 1,401 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations) – very high.
The decision letter can be found here. Here are some points of interest. This was another, the ninth I think, project where the inspectors recommended refusal but the government overturned them.
The single issue that delayed the project so much was habitats, and specifically the projected mortality of kittiwake using the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area when considered in combination with other projects. Ironically this was not a reason the inspectors gave for refusal, they thought there would be no adverse effect on this SPA, their beef was with the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone, the candidate Markham’s Triangle MCZ and the Southern North Sea Special Area of Conservation.
Alok Sharma MP in his last decision as Secretary of State before concentrating on the 2021 UN climate change conference in Glasgow got grumpy about this:
‘The Secretary of State is clear that the development consent process for nationally significant infrastructure projects is not designed for consultation on complex issues, such as HRA [Habitats Regulations Assessment], to take place after the conclusion of the examination. On occasion, as a pragmatic response to particular circumstances, he may undertake such consultation, but no reliance should be placed on the fact that he will always do so.’
Schedule 14 of the DCO is devoted to kittiwake compensation measures and benthic (ie seabed) compensation measures. The former will involve the construction of artificial nest sites. The Secretary of State was satisfied this time that:
‘appropriate environmental compensation can be secured’.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the second DCO after the Able Marine Energy Park where imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI) have been demonstrated to allow the project to go ahead.
A representation was made on behalf of the Scottish Government on the compensation measures. The Secretary of State loftily:
‘notes that the compensatory measures which the Applicant proposes are not based in sites in Scotland’.
As the North Sea gets more and more offshore windfarms, which are surely a good thing and a government priority, the issue of habitats will only get more pressing. The Crown Estate is about to license a fourth round of areas for development, for example. I don’t think it is up to individual developers to tackle this each time, there should be a coordinated strategy developed by the Crown Estate, developers, nature conservation bodies and government collectively.
Other issues: there was a concern about construction traffic noise in relation to a property that had seen off an anaerobic digestion plant for the same reason; it seems that removing a speed bump has solved that problem.
A community benefit fund was proposed by the local authorities but the applicant wanted it to be voluntary and not secured through the order, which is what has happened.
The time limit for compulsory acquisition was extended from the standard five to seven years, on the basis that technology may advance and result in less land take during that time.
There were representations about waiting until an ‘offshore ring main’ for electricity connections had been developed, but the Secretary of State said that although this was being explored for 2025-2030 projects, this one would be determined under the existing National Policy Statement.
The requirements are in Part 3 of Schedule 1 rather than being Schedule 2 – whatever next?
Finally, here is the result of the Christmas champagne competition.
The answers to the questions were as follows:
- Which pop group had hits such as ‘Where is the love?’, ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Boom Boom Pow’? – Black Eyed Peas.
- What phrase (3,3,4) describes a theory for the origin of the universe coined by Fred Hoyle? – The Big Bang.
- Which actor played Oskar Schindler in ‘Schindler’s List’, Bryan Mills in ‘Taken’ and Daniel in ‘Love, Actually’? – Liam Neeson.
- What name is shared by the wives of Henry II, Henry III and Edward I? – Eleanor.
- What method of restarting a football match is governed by Law 15 of the Laws of the Game? – Throw-In.
- What condition is ‘caspa’ in Spanish, ‘Schuppen’ in German, and ‘forfora’ in Italian? – dandruff.
- What country’s capital is Yerevan – Armenia.
Each word of the hidden NSIP could be found between consecutive answers, thus:
- black eyed pEAS The big bang.
- the big bANG LIAm neeson.
- liam neesON Eleanor.
- eleaNOR THrow in.
- throW IN Dandruff.
- dandrufF ARMenia.
So the answer was East Anglia One North Wind Farm. I had a few correct answers, and some wrong ones, but there can only be one winner, and the first name out of the virtual hat was Naomi Kretschmer of AECOM. Congratulations to Naomi, thank you to everyone who entered, and even if you didn’t enter I hope it distracted you for a while.