28 August 2019

2.8 GW of offshore wind extension projects to progress, following completion of plan level Habitats Regulations Assessment

The Crown Estate has completed the plan level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the 2017 project extension applications – confirming that 2.85 GW of new capacity, across 7 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 a number of non-governmental stakeholders.

The seven extensions are at:

  • Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm
  • Dudgeon offshore wind farm
  • Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm
  • Galloper offshore wind farm
  • Rampion offshore wind farm
  • Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm
  • Thanet offshore wind farm

For more detail on the extensions process, and a map of the proposed sites, please see our webpage.

The developers of the seven extensions listed above 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’ consideration of 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 Protocol is also available on the Marine Data Exchange.

As part of the 2017 extension opportunity, The Crown Estate also received an application for Race Bank extension project. The majority 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 that 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. We have therefore taken the decision not to pursue this route at this time.  We 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, we remain open to all available options under the Habitats Regulations for Round 4, including pursuing a derogation, where appropriate. Further information on the Round 4 HRA approach will be provided at the time of launch, through the Information Memorandum.  

Will Apps, Head of Energy Development at The Crown Estate 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’ll continue to work closely with customers, stakeholders and Government to address spatial challenges, in support of responsible, future deployment of UK offshore wind.”

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