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Hornsea Project Three Offshore Wind Farm
From North Norfolk District Council
Application Ref: EN010080
Submission of Relevant Representation
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has been notified by Ørsted Hornsea Project Three (UK) Limited that, as of 08 June 2018, their application for Development Consent Order (DCO) in respect of Hornsea Project Three (HPT) has been accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate under the Planning Act 2008.
This letter forms the Relevant Representation of NNDC and sets out a summary of the issues that are considered to be relevant to the nationally significant infrastructure project as it passes through the North Norfolk district.
Principle of Development
North Norfolk District Council is fully supportive of the principle of renewable energy development in helping to tackle the challenges faced by climate change. NNDC recognises the national importance of having a balanced supply of electrical generation including increasing renewable energy supplies from offshore turbines in helping decarbonise the UK’s energy sector. At a local level NNDC has made a significant contribution of its own through, amongst other things, the grant of planning permission for in excess of 150MW capacity of solar farms, with electrical output capable of powering over 40,000 homes, in North Norfolk.
Whilst recognising the national importance of Hornsea Project Three, North Norfolk District Council believes it is essential to ensure that key design and construction decisions do not result in unacceptable or adverse impacts on residents or businesses within North Norfolk, acknowledging the important contribution that agriculture and tourism plays in the economic prosperity of the District underpinned by the nationally and internationally recognised coast, landscape and biodiversity interests.
Keys Aspects of the Project Affecting North Norfolk
North Norfolk District Council’s jurisdiction extends inland from the Mean Low-Water mark along the coastline. The proposal would affect land within NNDC stretching from the intertidal area at Weybourne and inland along the proposed cable route and 80m wide working corridor until it passes out of the district into Broadland District Council near to Corpusty and Saxthorpe. The key design/construction decisions affecting North Norfolk include:
• Choice of transmission system;
• Phasing of the Project and Associated Construction Timetable(s);
• Method of bringing offshore cables onshore at Weybourne;
• Working Corridor of onshore cable route;
• Use of Horizontal Directional Drilling onshore;
• Onshore HVAC Booster Station;
• Impact of construction traffic;
• Landscape & Biodiversity Mitigation;
• Community Benefits
Choice of Transmission System - High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC) vs High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)
The final chosen method of transmission of electricity to the onshore gird connection location will have a fundamental bearing on the overall impact of the project. Whilst it is recognised that Ørsted Hornsea Project Three (UK) Limited wish to keep their options open to using either HVAC or HVDC, this does currently present a wide project envelope and increases the level of uncertainty for affected parties until such time as the final transmission method is chosen.
Table 3.37 in Chapter 3 of the Environmental Statement seeks to compare the components involved in the different HVAC / HVDC transmission systems. It has been the understanding of NNDC since the pre-application stage that a HVAC system will require an onshore booster station, with a site identified onshore near to the village of Edgefield; together with an offshore booster station, at a yet unidentified location, within a search zone approximately 19-22 nautical miles offshore from Cromer.
However, table 3.37 creates uncertainty as to whether these booster stations are required with the reference that these components ‘May be required’. However, the accompanying comments within that table suggest ‘HVAC: onshore and/or offshore booster station required’. As part of the examination process, North Norfolk District Council believes it will be important for there to be absolute clarity about the components required for each transmission type so that the worst-case scenario in relation to the HVAC option can be fully assessed. This is critical to ensure the impact of the development is properly understood and so that weight can be afforded by the decision maker as to whether one type of electrical transmission should be preferred over the other with the potential for the Development Consent Order to specify the transmission system to be used where there is compelling evidence to do so.
In the opinion of North Norfolk District Council, HVDC would result in the need for fewer buried cables and would have the least damaging impact on the district of North Norfolk when considering the project as a whole, particularly as this would negate the need for the booster station near Edgefield.
Phasing of the Project and Associated Construction Timetable(s)
Section 3.8 of Chapter 3 – Project Description sets out the Construction Phasing if the Development Consent Order is granted. This is also set out at para 2.15 of the Development Consent Under Explanatory Memorandum in terms of maximum durations. It indicates that construction could commence 2020/21 and could take up to seven years if built out in a single phase or up to 10 years if built out in two phases, with a maximum period of six years between the end of the first phase and commencement of the second phase.
NNDC understands that the onshore elements of the proposed project would take three years to construct in a single phase but this could span a six-year period in a two phase scheme (assuming a three-year gap between phases). If reference is made to the DCO Explanatory Memorandum (together with the example two phase programme at Figure 3.39 (Chapter 3: Project Description) then the duration of the project could well exceed 15 years if a gap of six years between the end of the first phase and commencement of the second phase is allowed by the DCO.
Clarity over Construction timetabling is a matter that NNDC would seek to be considered further, as part of the examination process, in order that any adverse impacts of construction in a single or two phase programme can be properly understood and appropriately managed for the benefit of residents and businesses within the District. The possibility of any extended construction window (certainly if it was to extend over 15 years) would be considered totally unacceptable to NNDC and local communities most of which are dependent on the tourism economy and the Council believes that the examination should explore how the project, and any grant of DCO, could reduce the maximum construction envelope down to an acceptable level. This may include specifying a maximum gap between the end of the first phase and commencement of the second phase.
In respect of a two-phase scheme it will be important during the examination to understand which components will be installed in the first phase which may help to reduce any future adverse consequences during the second phase. For example, in a two-phase construction the Environmental Statement does not appear to give consideration as to whether cable ducting could be laid for all of the development in phase one which would help reduce the adverse impacts of having to re-open or dig new trenches to lay cables for phase two. By laying ducting, a simpler cable pull through process would be possible in phase two which would help reduce disturbance impacts and speed up project completion. It would also help reduce the impacts from construction traffic in phase two by reducing the need for vehicles bringing imported stabilised backfill material over a wide time period (see section Impact of Construction Traffic). Completing the majority of trench works in phase one would also allow time for soils to recover and reduce the length of time taken out of agricultural production.
The Council believes the examination panel will also need to satisfy itself that the benefits of any landscape mitigation works planned in phase one are not damaged or undermined by a protracted phase two timetable which may include re-opening trenches. It is important that all mitigation works are delivered at an early stage so as to make the impact of the works acceptable in planning terms. Any phase one mitigation landscaping damaged or requiring removal during phase two would take time to recover and so may not deliver the level of mitigation expected over the planned lifetime of the project.
Method of bringing offshore cables onshore at Weybourne
At the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) stage, NNDC advised that:
‘Whilst the method of construction in the nearshore/landfall location needs to be considered further and in more detail, initial consideration is that a Horizontal Direct Drilling (HDD) approach would prove to be the least likely to have impacts on nearshore processes during construction and would be preferred. This should (in consideration with other marine environmental factors) be at an extent where HDD exit points have minimal impact on nearshore coastal processes. Likewise buried cabling as identified in the reports would be preferred to minimise impacts to coastal processes with low profile protection being the secondary position.
Impact of the proposed cables on tides and, in particular, waves and the influences this may have on coastal sediment transport are important factors that the Environmental Statement will need to include and PEIR seems to be making progress in covering these important issues’.
Some nine months after the PEIR response from NNDC it is disappointing that Ørsted are still discussing the possibility of open cut trenching techniques to bring the offshore cable onshore to the Transition Joint Bays (TJBs). Para 126.96.36.199 of the Environmental Statement Project Description refers to Open cut installation requiring beach closures of up to one month per cable. It is understood there would be 6 offshore cables using HVAC transmission or there would be 4 offshore cables (plus one HVAC cable) with HVDC transmission. This would suggest potential beach closure of up to six months in the worst case HVAC scenario.
The District Council therefore believes it will be very important for the examination to establish and understand the impact of nearshore works, the timing of works and how impacts on public footpaths and rights of way, including public access to the beach, for recreation can be managed without significant detriment to amenity. The associated economic impact of beach closures therefore needs to be properly assessed and mitigation considered as part of the examination process.
The examination stage will also need to consider the impact of open cut trenching on the Weybourne intertidal area (including effects on the Marine Conservation Zone, adjacent Site of Special Scientific Interest and nearby Special Area of Conservation) so that, where the evidence can justify it, the scope of the project is narrowed down to exclude inappropriate trenching techniques in any subsequent grant of DCO.
Based on the evidence seen to date, NNDC remains firmly of the view that HDD techniques (long HDD drill) should be used to bring the offshore cables onshore as this will have the least damaging impact on the nearshore (especially with a two-phase project), will result in fewer adverse impacts on coastal processes and will reduce the potential to destabilise the cliffs at Weybourne compared to open trenching techniques.
Working Corridor of onshore cable route
Ørsted have for some time made clear that the working corridor of the onshore cable route would typically be 80m wide - consisting of a 60m central section comprising three no. 5m wide and up to 2m deep trenches (tapering to 1.5m at base) either side of a 6m wide haul road. Each side of the cable corridor would include additional 10m wide strips of land on which topsoil and subsoil would be stored. Figure 3.32 within the Environmental Statement Project Description shows an indicative layout (albeit it appears to only show 12 cables rather than the 18 cables required for the 6 circuit HVAC worst case scenario).
The District Council believes it would be very helpful at examination stage to understand the likely layout for the HVDC solution which it is understood would consist of 8 HVDC cables and 3 HVAC cables. This may result in a reduction in the number of trenches needing to be dug and would mean less soil disturbance, which would be welcomed, particularly when passing across currently active agricultural land. The Council believes there is currently a lack of clarity generally about the ‘best-case scenario’ with this project which it is hoped will be made clearer through examination.
Use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) onshore
NNDC welcomes the use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) techniques so as to avoid sensitive or designated sites so as to minimise any potential impacts upon them.
Figure 3.2 within Environmental Statement Volume 3, Chapter 3 – Ecology and Nature Conservation sets out in some detail the intended locations for Hydraulic Directional Drilling including locations: A - HHD only, B – HDD with haul road over, C – HDD with haul road over or Open Cut, and D – HDD and ducting laydown.
The Council believes it will be important at examination stage to ensure the correct HDD method has been chosen along the onshore cable route. For example, Figure 3.2 - Sheet 1 suggests the use of type B – HDD with Haul Road over within an area marked as woodland. The loss of woodland should be avoided. Sheet 5 also refers to HDD (type B) passing through a hedgerow marked as having high and very high bat activity. Again such options should be avoided or, where there are justifiable reasons as to why species harm cannot be avoided, appropriate mitigation should be put in place.
Onshore HVAC Booster Station
Whilst NNDC has a preference for HVDC transmission because of the overall reduction in likely adverse impacts, if HVAC transmission is utilised then an Onshore Booster Station is understood to be needed in the area east of Edgefield and north of Corpusty and Saxthorpe (as indicated on sheets 9 and 10 of 2.4.2 - Works Plan - Onshore - Plans and Drawings) and as set out in Section 3.7.5 of Chapter 3 of the Environmental Statement – Project Description.
Whilst there remains some confusion as a result of Table 3.37 in Chapter 3 of the Environmental Statement about which components would be required for a HVAC system, Ørsted has previously stated their intention early at the pre-application stage to construct a booster station in North Norfolk as part of a HVAC system. NNDC have therefore worked with Ørsted to find the least harmful location having regard to the technical constraints of site selection and having regard to, amongst other things, landscape character and visual impact.
Paragraph 188.8.131.52 of the Project Description states ‘…The equipment will either be housed within a single or multiple buildings, in an open yard or a combination of the above.’ The District Council believes it is disappointing that, at this stage of the project, the design of the HVAC booster stations has not been refined further so that there is greater clarity about what is proposed. An indicative onshore booster station layout has been provided but this is shown in limited detail so as to gauge overall impact or assess how and whether proposed landscaping mitigation will be effective.
Volume 6, Annex 4.5 sets out Photograph Panels, Wirelines and Photomontages and includes a series of five viewpoints which include wireline models and Year 1 and Year 15 photomontages. Paragraph 184.108.40.206 of that document suggests:
‘Where wirelines indicate that views of the onshore HVAC booster station would be very limited photomontages have not been produced. This approach was consulted on and agreed with South Norfolk District Council (SNDC) and Norfolk County Council (NCC) as noted in Table 4.4 of volume 3, chapter 4: Landscape and Visual Resources. North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Broadland District Council (BDC) were also consulted but at the time of finalisation of this report had not responded’.
It should be made clear that whilst NNDC was invited to comment on the photomontage methodology, this consultation took place on 21 Dec 2017 with responses requested by 12 Jan 2018 (or approval would be assumed). The District Council does not believe this represents meaningful consultation as the Council offices were only open for business for 11 days during this period, which is insufficient given the scale of this project and its potential impact on the District. NNDC had previously made a significant contribution in providing advice to Ørsted to assist them in refining a list of potential sites and continued to offer to support regarding the design of the HVAC booster station and to agree the specification of landscape mitigation planting. To date this opportunity has not been taken up by Ørsted or its appointed consultants. The District Council therefore believes that Para 220.127.116.11 is disingenuous as the specific question about wireframes and photomontages was never properly discussed with NNDC.
Irrespective of whether specific or genuine consultation has taken place, the key issues which need to be determined regarding any cable booster station during examination is whether the visual impacts of the proposed facility are acceptable in whatever form it may take within the wide envelope presented. The following issues should therefore be established:
• What is the best-case booster station scenario for a HVAC solution;
• What is the worst-case booster station scenario for a HVAC solution;
• Agreeing the likely external form of any buildings to be sited;
• Agreeing the external colours for any building(s) to be erected including walls, roofs, windows and doors with the purpose of reducing the visual impacts;
• Establishing what any solution without buildings would look like (including colour);
• Establishing the specification and maintenance/management of mitigation planting necessary to achieve the minimum screening of the buildings set out in the photomontages for Years 1 and 15;
• Understanding expected growth rates for mitigation planting;
• Understanding the impact of a two-phase project on the HVAC booster station site and associated landscape mitigation;
• Understanding the likely visual impact of any external lighting needed on site.
Whilst many of the above issues may form part of a suite of subsequent planning conditions, it will nonetheless be important for the District Council and communities most closely affected by this development to understand the likely best and worst case impacts of the development and to understand whether mitigation is achievable. This may also give weight to determining whether one transmission system should be favoured over another.
Impact of construction traffic
Within North Norfolk it is assumed that the main traffic generators connected with Hornsea Project Three will come from construction traffic associated with:
• Bringing the offshore cables onshore at Weybourne
• Construction of the cable corridor; and
• Construction of the HVAC Booster Station (assuming HVAC transmission is used)
North Norfolk has many small and narrow country roads with restricted widths and limited opportunities for larger vehicles to pass each other. Traffic levels vary but tourism during March to October (heighted during the summer months especially near coastal locations) means that the timing of any construction works will be critical to minimising adverse highway impacts.
Volume 3, Chapter 7 of the Environmental Statement considers Traffic and Transport and Table 7.9 sets out the ‘maximum design scenario considered for the assessment of potential impacts on traffic and transport’ and Table 7.12 sets out the daily construction vehicle movements split out into construction staff and HGVs and Table 7.18 indicates the Impact of Hornsea Project Three Construction Traffic Flows including percentage change due to construction traffic (Maximum daily change) for HGVs and total vehicles. An Outline Traffic Construction Management Plan has been provided which seeks to ‘establish the principles that will be implemented by the principal contractors to minimise the adverse impacts associated with the transport of materials, plant and staff required for construction of the onshore elements of Hornsea Project Three offshore wind farm’
At the examination it will be important to understand the highway implications for the best-case scenario (assumed HVDC) and the worst case scenario (assumed HVAC) so that residents and businesses can properly understand the impact of construction traffic, where it is planned to go, in what volumes and for what duration. At present it is difficult to cut through the information presented in order to gauge an understanding of the different scenarios. There is particular concern in respect of access north of the A148 from the point at which cables come onshore, with evidence submitted suggesting a significant increase in HGV traffic. Construction of the HVAC booster station near Edgefield (Link ID 59) will also see a significant increase in HGV movements and one of the largest percentage increases in total vehicles within North Norfolk.
It is likely that focus in the examination will be on the accuracy of the figures presented including baseline date and expected traffic movements. In particular, within Table 7.12, Link IDs 1, 50, and 55 within NNDC area show no daily construction movements and no percentage changes. It will be important to understand how such commitments and mitigation strategies can be secured in any subsequent consent to minimise adverse effects on sensitive receptors, as well as consideration of whether delivery of equipment and cables should be outside of daytime hours when traffic volumes on these routes are highest.
Consideration will also need to be given to construction phasing and what will happen in the event of significant delay between first and second phases including construction compounds, temporary access routes and mobilisation works within North Norfolk.
Landscape & Biodiversity Mitigation
NNDC recognise that Ørsted have undertaken desktop studies and Phase 1 Habitat Surveys together with site specific surveys in accordance with best practice recommendations in order to inform the baseline data which underpins Environmental Statement Volume 3, Chapter 3 – Ecology and Nature Conservation. Figure 3.2 (Sheets 1 to 5) set out the range of ecological constraints including, amongst other things, the location of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), County Wildlife Sites as well as data for Great Crested Newts, reptiles and bat activity. Figure 3.2 also sets out in some detail the intended locations for Hydraulic Directional Drilling including locations: A - HHD only, B – HDD with haul road over, C – HDD with haul road over or Open Cut, and D – HDD and ducting laydown. The Use of HDD section above identifies some issues to consider at examination stage regarding HDD types to be employed along the cable corridor route.
Section 3.10 of the Environmental Statement Volume 3, Chapter 3 – Ecology and Nature Conservation sets out Measures to be adopted as part of Hornsea Three and these are welcomed by NNDC and should be secured with any consent. It will also be important for Ørsted to set out and quantify landscape mitigation to offset the loss of hedgerows and trees which will provide the opportunity for both landscape and ecological enhancements sufficient to at least outweigh any adverse impacts.
Consideration will also need to be given to the timing of enhancement/mitigation works, particularly in view of the potential for the project to be split into two phases.
In respect of potential community benefits, NNDC recognises that the DCO process has to work within the sphere of planning law and under the notion that planning obligations should only be sought where they are necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms; directly related to the development; and fairly and reasonable related in scale and kind to the development.
NNDC recognises that, once built, the scheme is likely to be relatively benign. However, the authority believes that it is important that the proposals sufficiently address any harmful impacts associated with construction including potential damage to coastal areas, loss of trees and hedgerows along and associated with the cable corridor, damage to roads and verges from traffic together with consideration of harm to the economic prosperity of businesses affected by any extended or multi-phased construction activities. The Council believes it will therefore be important for the examination panel to carefully consider and understand the package of CIL compliant benefits being put forward by Ørsted as part of the consent process and how those benefits would be secured.
Outside of the DCO process, North Norfolk District Council will seek to negotiate with Ørsted to secure a range of benefits for the wider community of North Norfolk.
Whilst NNDC is supportive of the principle of the Hornsea Project Three offshore wind development being proposed by Ørsted, the Council believes it will be important to ensure the project is managed and delivered in a way that does not result in significant adverse impacts on local communities and businesses close to the landfall and along the onshore cable route. Given the current size of the project envelope, NNDC has genuine concerns about certain aspects of the proposal and it is requested that these matters, as set out above, are taken forward as part of the examination stage so that there can be greater clarity about the proposals and confidence that an acceptable DCO outcome can be achieved for the residents, businesses and communities of North Norfolk.
Major Projects Manager