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Round 4 plan-level HRA

Assessing the impacts of Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 on the network of protected areas covering Europe’s most valuable species and habitats.

The Habitats Regulations protect certain habitats and species through a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right.

The Regulations specifically refer to Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). These sites are given legal protection because they are designated for habitats and species of importance. Together they form a network of protected sites across the UK called the UK national site network.

The Crown Estate has now completed its work on the Round 4 Plan-Level HRA which concluded that the possibility of an ‘Adverse Effect on Site Integrity’ (AEOSI) as a result of the Round 4 plan cannot be ruled out for two of the protected sites forming part of ‘the national site network’. These are the Flamborough & Filey Coast SPA (due to the potential impact on the kittiwake feature) and the Dogger Bank SAC (due to the likely impact on the sandbank feature of that site).

In light of this, The Crown Estate considered whether it should make use of ‘derogation’ - a process which enables plans or projects to progress if certain tests are met, while ensuring any environmental impacts are fully offset through environmental compensatory measures and on 15 July the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that The Crown Estate may proceed with the Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 plan on the basis of a derogation.

Technical documents produced as part of the HRA process can be found on the Marine Data Exchange here.

You can read more about the HRA process in our Guide to Habitats Regulation Assessment and more about Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 by clicking here.

A pioneering approach to environmental habitats

The Crown Estate will now lead a pioneering programme of work to oversee the development of strategic environmental compensation plans for two protected sites (the Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation and the Flamborough and Filey Coast Special Protection Area), ensuring that the health of the natural marine environment remains at the centre of development plans.

The Crown Estate will now establish a Steering Group for each of the protected sites, comprising government and statutory nature conservation bodies and the relevant project developers, which will drive the development of the detailed plans to ensure appropriate delivery of the commitments made by The Crown Estate through its plan-level HRA.

Working with stakeholders

Throughout the Plan-Level HRA process, we engage and consult with an Expert Working Group (EWG) comprising experts from relevant organisations who provide sector and topic-specific technical expertise, including relevant UK statutory marine planning authorities, statutory nature conservation bodies and relevant non-governmental organisations. The EWG is independently chaired by Professor Dickon Howell.

The EWG comprises representatives from the following organisations:

  • Natural England

  • Marine Management Organisation

  • Defra

  • BEIS

  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee

  • Natural Resources Wales (advisory)

  • Natural Resources Wales (regulatory)

  • Welsh Government

  • Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland

  • Marine Scotland

  • RSPB

  • Nature Scot

  • The Wildlife Trusts

  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation

  • The Crown Estate