United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Judicial review possible for Docking Shoal

Centrica may appeal; cumulative impacts were deciding issue

The energy firm that has been developing the 540MW Docking Shoal offshore wind farm, Centrica, has not yet decided how it will respond to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc)’s decision to block the project.

Decc’s decision not to grant Centrica permission to proceed with construction of Docking Shoal was primarily prompted by concerns about the total number of sandwich terns – a protected seabird that nests along the north Norfolk coast – that would be expected to die as a result of strikes with turbines in the Greater Wash area.

The decision to refuse the project was announced last week (Windpower Offshore 06-Jul-12). All the offshore wind farms in the Greater Wash area are expected to result in sandwich tern fatalities, however, computer modelling suggests the number of fatalities that would result from construction of Docking Shoal would be higher than for other planned offshore wind farms in the area, namely Race Bank and Dudgeon. This is because Docking Shoal would be closer to the birds’ breeding and foraging grounds.

Judicial review

Speaking with Windpower Offshore, a Centrica spokesperson explained that the company is "looking at what our options may be". The company waited more than three years for Decc to respond to its application to build Docking Shoal. "It has taken an awful long time and money to develop the project," acknowledged the spokesperson.

According to Decc, Centrica can attempt to appeal against the department’s decision, however, it would not be a simple process. The company would have to apply for a judicial review, submitting its application within three months of last week’s decision. A judge would then decide whether a judicial review is warranted. If the judge were to rule in Centrica’s favour, the company would be free to mount a legal challenge against the government’s decision.

Sandwich tern colonies at Blakeney Point and Scolt Head Island, on the north Norfolk coast, are protected under EU legislation.

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the cumulative impacts of offshore wind farms being grouped together in ‘clusters’ around the UK coastline. Earlier this year, the UK National Environment Research Council (Nerc) commissioned a consortium of consultancies, led by WSP Future Energy, to develop a set of principles for the assessment of cumulative impacts of offshore wind farms (Windpower Offshore 31-May-12).

Decc’s willingness to consider cumulative impacts in coming to a decision about three planned offshore wind farms in the Greater Wash – Docking Shoal, Race Bank and Dudgeon - have been praised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The NGO has a policy of supporting wind energy developments unless their biodiversity impacts are too great.

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