National Park welcomes changes to wind farm proposal

E.ON's London Array. Could this soon be a view in Sussex?
E.ON's London Array. Could this soon be a view in Sussex?

Changes to the proposals for E.ON’s Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, which were accepted for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate this week, have been welcomed by the South Downs National Park Authority.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We’re pleased to see that E.ON has listened to our concerns regarding the visual impact of the Rampion proposal on the South Downs National Park, however we think that there is more to be done especially on the routing of the cables.”

Evolution of offshore site area Option B high res

Evolution of offshore site area Option B high res

Electricity from the project, which E.ON claims could power 450,000 homes, would have to be supplied through a new high-voltage cable traversing the South Downs National Park to a National Grid substation at Bolney.

Consultation feedback from more than 1500 people and organisations in Sussex has been used to shape the wind farm proposals.

Notices are now being placed in local and national newspapers under Section 56 of the Planning Act 2008, setting out how the community can register their opinions with the Planning Inspectorate.

The public will be able to view E.ON’s final proposals and register as an ‘interested party’ with the Planning Inspectorate during the period from April 3 to May 11 2013 at http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/projects/south-east/rampion-offshore-wind-farm/

The main concerns highlighted through the consultation were the visual impact of the wind farm from the Sussex Heritage Coast, the impact on fishermen and sea users and the impact of the onshore cable route on the South Downs National Park.

Margaret Paren added: “This is a nationally significant infrastructure project but it would have impacts on a nationally important protected landscape which must therefore be given equal weight in making decisions – a point we will continue to make during the public examination of these plans.”

In response to concerns of the impact on the South Downs National Park, E.ON has put forward a number of solutions.

These include a ducted method of cable installation to reduce the time required for trenching and restoration, tailored construction to reduce the impact on the chalk grasslands at Tottington Mount and a commitment to communicate with users, informing them of the impact on Public Rights of Way.

Following concerns raised about semi-natural ancient woodland, outside the National Park, minor realignments of the cable route have been introduced to avoid ecologically sensitive areas.

E.ON has also listened to concerns about traffic on Bob Lane highlighted by residents living near the proposed new substation and has confirmed that there will be no construction access from Bob Lane after the initial construction site is established.

In response to calls to lessen the visual impact of the substation, tree planting is planned along the northern and southern boundaries of the substation site to reduce visual impact.

E.ON has also worked to reduce the wind farm area by almost a quarter of the area consulted upon and to around half that originally awarded by The Crown Estate in January 2010.

This has been achieved by removing an area to the southeast of the site, therefore reducing the view of the wind farm visible from the Heritage Coast by over 35%.

This change has also led to a reduction in the maximum number of proposed turbines by 20, meaning the project could feature between 100 and 175 turbines depending on the model selected.

They have also undertaken further engineering work, resulting in a reduction in the maximum number of gravity base foundations that may be required.

This will play a key part in minimising the impact on wave heights which the surfing and wave sports community were concerned about. With this change wave heights will only be impacted by around 3%, compared to the potential 22% featured in the original proposals.

Chris Tomlinson, E.ON Development Manager for the project, said: “We’re delighted to reach this important milestone and that the application will now be considered by the Planning Inspectorate.

“In finalising our proposals, we’ve been very grateful for the level of interest shown by the local community and the comments we have received.

“The feedback from the consultations has helped us shape the proposals and further reduce the impact on the local community, while maintaining a project capable of generating electricity for the needs of two thirds of the homes in Sussex.”

A final decision on whether consent will be granted will not be made until summer 2014.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the proposed offshore wind farm should email rampion@eon.com or call 01273 603 721.

Elswehere, E.ON’s London Array (pictured) - the world’s largest offshore wind farm in which E.ON has a 30 per cent stake -reached full capacity on April 5, with the commissioning of the 175th and final turbine.

London Array is a significant achievement in renewable energy -it will be capable of generating enough energy to power nearly half a million homes and reduce harmful CO2 emissions by over 900,000 tonnes a year.