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The Crown Estate decides on derogation for Round 4 projects

4C Offshore | James Bernthal-Hooker
By: James Bernthal-Hooker 21/04/2022 The Crown Estate
The Crown Estate (TCE) has completed its work on Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4. The UK leasing round could potentially deliver up to 8 GW of new offshore wind capacity – enough to power 7 million more homes.

As part of Round 4, TCE selected six proposed offshore wind projects in English and Welsh waters in 2021. Winners included RWE, Green Investment Group/Total, EnBW/bp, and Offshore Wind Limited (Cobra/Flotation Energy).

The HRA, a requirement of all relevant plans or projects (onshore or offshore) is an assessment of potential impacts on the UK’s most valuable environmental habitats.

TCE’s plan-level HRA 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’.”

The protected sites are the Flamborough & Filey Coast SPA, with potential impact on the kittiwake feature, and the Dogger Bank SAC, with a likely impact on the sandbank feature.

Because of these possible impacts, TCE considered “derogation”, a process enabling plans or projects to progress if certain tests are met and which ensures that environmental impacts are offset by compensatory measures. Considering derogation, TCE concluded that:

(a) there are no alternative solutions to deliver the Round 4 objectives);

(b) there are clear imperatives reasons of overriding public interest to proceed under the government’s targets for 2050 (50 GW offshore wind and net-zero); and

(c) environmental compensatory measures can fully offshoot the potential harm to the two sites.

Therefore, TCE has informed the UK and Welsh government that it intends to proceed all six of the Round 4 projects to the final stage of leasing (awarding an Agreement of Lease) on the basis of derogation.

“As pressures on our marine environment increase, it’s imperative that we can find ways to deliver the clean power that is urgently needed to help combat the energy crisis and deliver greater energy security, while recognising the importance of protecting habitats and biodiversity offshore”, said Olivia Thomas, The Crown Estate’s Head of Marine Planning. “It’s therefore vital that any proposed developments are rigorously assessed to understand their impacts and that’s why we carefully followed the HRA process set out in the Habitats Regulations for the Round 4 plan.
We are grateful for the valuable independent expertise provided by environmental and conservation organisations throughout the Round 4 HRA process.”

The proposed derogation for Round 4 will now be considered by BEIS and the Welsh Government.

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