Rampion improvements, but are they enough?

This week, E.ON has been sending out letters outlining the changes to its Rampion wind farm proposals and how people can continue to be involved with the process.

The good news is that E.ON has listened to concerns about the impact of the proposals on the Heritage Coast.  To address this they have reduced the size of the maximum area of the wind farm by 24% (mainly in the east) and the maximum number of turbines has been reduced to 175.  Most importantly, the field of view of the wind farm from the Heritage Coast has reduced by over a third, from 31 degrees to 20 degrees.

E.ON has also made changes in the marine area to reduce the impact on fishing, shipping, marine ecology and the wave climate (for surfers).

Onshore, there are some minor tweaks to the underground cable route and its installation but it is still taking a very long route through the South Downs National Park.  E.ON has also committed to develop a communications strategy so people will be aware of any closures or diversions to rights of way.

Whether these measures overcome various concerns remains to be seen and further improvements might still be possible, particularly with regard to the impact on the Heritage Coast, if E.ON is able to provide a capacity of 700 MW without using the full area.

For now, people have until 11 May, 2013 to register their interest with the Planning Inspectorate if they wish to comment on the application.  They can also view the application documents online or at various local locations.

All at Sea

The Government recently announced that it was consulting on the designation of 31 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in English and Welsh coastal waters.  Although many more areas have been suggested as MCZs, only these first 31 are being progressed at present.

In the south east, the MCZ of direct relevance to the South Downs National Park is Beachy Head West (numbered 34 on the MCZ map).  While it is good news that this MCZ is one of the first to be progressed, it is possibly one of the narrowest MCZs proposed.  Extending from Beachy Head westwards to 100m west of Brighton Marina, the recommended MCZ is only 1/4 of a nautical mile (about 500m) wide along its entire length.  In total the area covered by the designation is some 23.58 square kilometres.

Given that the current Voluntary Marine Conservation cialis 10mg Area that extends along the Sussex Heritage Coast is some 2km wide, the proposed MCZ might seem like a step backwards.  Indeed, the area concerned appears to have shrunk from what was first put forward.

Therefore there are concerns that the MCZ may not be able to fulfil the role it is supposed to do, being so tightly constrained.  The feeling is that it should be wide enough to cover the entire chalk shelf underneath the water.  In addition, it does not include the two tidal estuaries of the River Ouse and the River Cuckmere.  These are important for our threatened eels and impressive sea trout, the latter of which are amongst the largest in the country.  Including these estuaries in the MCZ would create a more ecologically coherant approach to marine conservation.

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposals can view the consultation document and respond by midnight on 31 March 2013.

Rampion draft Environmental Statement disappoints

The South Downs Network has responded to the consultation, which ended yesterday, on the draft Environmental Statement for the proposed Rampion offshore wind farm to express its disappointment and concern at the lack of good quality information within in.  The lack of data was a frustration with the first consultation earlier in the year and reassurances were received that this would be resolved with the publication of the draft Environmental Statement.

However, this has not been the case and detailed information on alternative cable routes is still missing and the quality and number of the photomontages and other data inadequate to properly assess the visual impact on the South Downs National Park.  The Network is particularly concerned that the effect on the Heritage Coast appears to have been downplayed and that mitigation of, and compensation for, any visual impact is not even discussed.

There are also issues around how the cable route goes through the South Downs Way and the importation and disposal of materials for the haul road, amongst many other concerns that have been raised.  In all, this has led the Network to the conclusion that E.ON has not fulfilled its legal duty, under Section 62(2) of the 1995 Environment Act, to have regard to National Park purposes.

The Network hopes that E.ON will take stock and work with local communities and organisations to improve the draft Environmental Statement, which should include discussion of possible mitigation and compensation measures.  This may require it to hold back from formally submitting its application in October but if that leads to a better outcome all round then that can only be of benefit.

Rampion offshore windfarm consultation extended

The second round of public consultation on E.ON’s proposals for the Rampion offhsore windfarm started on Wednesday, 13 June.  After much lobbying, E.ON has conceded some ground in extending the consultation from 6 to 8 weeks, but not to 12 weeks as good practice would dictate and as called for by the South Downs Network.  This means the new consultation will now end on 8 August.

E.ON has also published its draft Environmental Statement, which is split into 32 sections.  This can be downloaded from E.ON’s website or is publicly accessible at the district council offices of Adur, Horsham, Mid-Sussex and Worthing and at Brighton & Hove City Council offices in Hove and at East Sussex County Council offices in Newhaven.  This means that people will now have a chance to properly examine the proposals and see on what basis decisions have been taken.

The South Downs Network will be closely looking at this evidence to ensure that E.ON has had proper regard to National Park purposes, both in regard to the cable route and the impact on the Heritage Coast.

Call for 12 week consultation on Rampion

The South Downs Network is calling for the next consultation phase on the Rampion windfarm proposal to be extended to 12 weeks to allow people sufficient time to analyse and respond to the Environmental Impact Assessment.  Currently it is due to start mid-May but will only run for 6 weeks.  The Network believes this is too short a timescale to allow proper democratic scrutiny.

In its response to the first consultation, the South Downs Network has welcomed the extensive awareness raising that E.ON has done during this period.  It has also welcomed the recognition that any cabling on land should be put underground.

However, the Network has been critical of the lack of information released about the development so far.  This has hindered people’s ability to make informed responses to the windfarm proposals: another reason why a 12 week period is needed for the second round of consultation.  The Network has also expressed concern about the landscape impact, particularly on the Heritage Coast, and the length of the cable route through the National Park.