The government yesterday refused development consent for a 34-turbine extension to the Thanet wind farm off the coast of Kent, citing concerns about the project's impact on shipping, ports and marine navigation.
The government has refused planning permission to a 340MW extension to Vattenfall's Thanet wind farm off the southeast coast of England, dealing a blow to the company's plans to expand the site's renewable power capacity.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma refused consent to the project yesterday, citing concerns about the proposed extension's impact on marine navigation, shipping, and ports in the area.
"The Secretary of State should not consent applications which pose unacceptable risks to navigational safety after all possible mitigation measures have been considered," the government's decision states. "The conclusion of the Examining Authority is that the Applicant failed to demonstrate sufficient mitigation of risks to safety of navigation to make them As Low As Reasonably Practicable."
The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said its chief concerns were about how the project, which could limit the amount of space available for shipping in the approach to the Thames Estuary, might impact the navigational safety of shipping traffic in adjacent waters and effect the resilience, productivity, and competitiveness of facilities and services accessed by that traffic, such as ports along the Kent and Essex coast.
Vattenfall intended to deploy 34 new turbines, which would have been adjacent to its existing 300MW wind farm around 8km from the Kent coast.
The Swedish developer's UK country manager, Danielle Lane, said the firm was mulling its next steps following the refusal of planniner permission.
"Naturally we're very disappointed by this decision and will consider how we proceed from here," she said. "We continue to believe that Thanet Extension would be an important development for the local area, for UK energy security, and for the drive to reduce emissions."
The government was originally due to make a decision on the development consent order for the Thanet extension in December, more than a year after the plans were submitted in June 2018, but the deadline was pushed back.
Hugh McNeal, chief executive at trade body RenewableUK, said it was "unfortunate" that Kent's economy would not be able to benefit from the expanded wind farm and warned the UK needed to greenlight more projects if it is to deliver on the government's offshore wind capacity targets, which are crucial to meeting the country's climate goals.
"The UK urgently needs new generating capacity to replace old power stations which are going offline and to reach net zero emissions," he said. "The government has set a target of quadrupling offshore wind capacity to 40GW by 2030 and if that's to be achieved we need new projects to progress. Offshore wind is regenerating coastal communities by providing billions of pounds of new investment and boosting employment, so it's unfortunate that Kent won't be able to benefit from those opportunities as a result of this decision."
The decision came as the government this week also postponed the statutory decision for planning consent for two other major southeast offshore wind projects, pushing back the final decision until next month.
The decision for Ørsted's 2.4 GW Hornsea Three offshore wind project and Vattenfall's 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind project was originally scheduled for yesterday, but has now been moved to 2 July.
Vattenfall's Lane yesterday condemned the government's move to put off its decision on the project. "Norfolk Vanguard is one of the most innovative and ambitious offshore wind projects in the world," she said. "Yet this is now the second time it has suffered a delay, despite addressing all of the major concerns raised during the planning process.
"Coming so soon after the decision on Norfolk Boreas was pushed back until October, the offshore wind industry will be left wondering about the Government's intentions for this sector. We're in a race against time to reduce emissions and need to respond to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, yet crucial infrastructure decisions are being put on hold."
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