Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power Station
Request for comments on Applicant's draft HRA Screening Report
1 Project Description
1.1 The Planning Inspectorate is aware that the Wales Bill, which is currently at House of Lords Committee stage, includes clause 41 and introduces the ability to include ‘associated development’ for DCO’s in Wales. The extent to which various elements are included in the Applicant’s DCO application will influence the assessment. In particular that which is subject to direct assessment and that which is considered as other plans and projects and therefore part of the in-combination assessment.
1.2 Section 2.1– Paragraph 2 describes the current scope of the HRA as including the power station site and off-site power station facilities. In relation to the points raised above it is essential that there is clarity regarding the development that is included within the DCO and that which is not. In terms of the overall approach to HRA, the ExA will need to clearly assess the effects that are directly attributable to the Project being applied for in the DCO so that they can ensure that the necessary mitigation is appropriately secured.
1.3 Section 2.1 - Paragraph 3 should refer to the need for the separate grid connection which is being promoted by National Grid. It will need to be made clear how the grid connection will be considered in-combination with the Project.
1.4 We acknowledge that this is an initial draft report and detail will be forthcoming. However, Section 2.3 could be improved with the inclusion of a more detailed description of the likely timescales for aspects of the Project (eg the likely duration each aspect will take to construct and the likely duration applicable to the identification of temporary features etc). This could be addressed by a more detailed programme which could be included as part of section 2.4.
1.5 The Applicant should ensure that the Wylfa Newydd Development Area depicted on figures is consistent with the DCO application site depicted on any works plans to be submitted with the DCO (noting that the DCO works plans will need to include those off-site development areas that are part of the DCO).
1.6 Section 18.104.22.168:
• If piling is required to install the prepared sub-base of the MOLF or the cofferdam for the Ro-Ro berth construction, details of these works should be provided.
• The final HRA Screening Report should be clear as to whether dredging and marine disposal forms part of the DCO application. Information relating to the potential disposal site(s) should be considered to the extent that they are likely.
• Frequency and duration of maintenance activities relating to the marine works should be described and considered in the full assessment.
1.7 There is no reference to the decommissioning of the project as part of the description or in terms of how decommissioning will be approached within the assessment. The NPS is clear that effects arising from the decommissioning of the Project need to be assessed.
2 Scoping of European Sites
2.1 Table 4.1 (project screening categories):
• The third row states that “functional habitat loss (e.g. through disturbance or flooding) is not included” in the ‘Land-take’ screening category. The Planning Inspectorate considers that the potential for impacts on functional habitat should be considered within the HRA, or at further justification and evidence of agreement with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will be expected as to its exclusion.
• The fifth row states that “Effects could result from increased inputs into, or abstraction from, the local water supply associated with the number of construction workers required”. Consideration should also be given to effects resulting from abstraction required during construction and operation.
• The final row considers physical interaction between species and project infrastructure but it is unclear if / how this would consider any potential displacement effects (or whether such aspects would be covered as part of the other screening categories).
3 Zones of Influence
3.1 Table 4.2 details the zone of influence (ZOI) for different screening criteria, habitats/species and hazards. The Planning Inspectorate welcomes that the results of ongoing assessments will be taken into account to help refine the ZOIs. Where this approach is taken, clear cross-referencing should be made to the relevant sections of the technical assessments. It should also be clear, once all of the ongoing works are complete and the ZOIs are fully defined, how the precautionary ZOIs have evolved through the detailed assessment work, particularly if they were initially wider and have been revised upwards or downwards.
3.2 The Planning Inspectorate has the following comments on Table 4.2:
• The use of 50db as a criterion to determine the ZOI of airborne noise and vibration from plant and machinery is noted, as is that the Applicant considers noise above 50dB would not occur further than 600m from the site boundaries. The Planning Inspectorate welcomes that this ZOI will be kept under review and expects that noise modelling would be used to determine where the 50db contours lie. The draft HRA Report confirms stakeholders agree with the ZOI but does not explain whether they agree with the use of 50dB as a threshold; this should be clarified. Variance in species sensitivity to noise should be taken into account and the HRA Report should detail for which receptors the 70dB(A) threshold would be applied and whether this has been agreed with relevant stakeholders. The screening report should also be specific in identifying which organisations agree to the approach (as opposed to ‘relevant stakeholders’). This section of Table 4.2 has not detailed how the ZOI for vibration will be determined; this should be detailed within the final HRA Screening Report.
• Noise disturbance thresholds for most ecological receptors have been set as the same level as for human receptors, as based on guidance from the British Standards Institution (2014). It is not clear which guidance this refers to. The Screening Report should indicate which standard is being relied on.
• In terms of underwater noise and vibration, the HRA Screening Report should indicate what noise level is considered to induce temporary threshold shift or behaviour effects to marine mammals and on what evidence this has been assumed (eg 5km and 83km thresholds are quoted). The same applies in terms of evidence for the noise level at which mortality or potential mortality of fish is predicted to occur (270m is quoted).
• In terms of blasting, and the definition of appropriate ZOI, it would be beneficial to understand more about the possible extent, frequency and duration of any blasting activities. Where this is not known, the assessment should consider a worst case scenario.
• Noise effects from road transport – it will need to be clear the extent of the road network that is included (this section implies it will be all roads within the transport assessment). Is this the project wide transport assessment or just that in support of the DCO elements (the relationship to the TCPA road improvements is not clear here)?
• For land-take, the ZOIs are defined as being within the development footprint or the WDNA footprint but it is not entirely clear what this means. Is this referring to the location of built development or the boundary of the WDNA? The HRA Screening Report should provide a clear definition of the ZOI.
• For marine benthic habitats (Changes in freshwater flow triggers ) the ZOI is based on a distance of 500m, however it is not clear where this distance is being measured from – is it the point at which the freshwater discharge enters the marine environment? The HRA Screening Report should provide a clear definition of the ZOI.
• Pages 28 and 29 refer to NRW’s approach to considering the effects of trade discharges greater than 100m3 on water quality. The HRA Screening Report should provide evidence of this approach ie a link to specific guidance.
• Page 31 refers to the Institute of Air Quality Management (IAQM) guidance (2014) in relation to road traffic emissions; however, it is unclear to what this guidance refers as the Planning Inspectorate understands the 2014 IAQM guidance is ‘Guidance on the assessment of dust from demolition and construction’. The HRA Screening Report should identify specific guidance documents that are referred to and contain a complete reference list.
3.3 There are a couple of references within Table 4.2 to ZOI’s having been agreed with relevant stakeholders during pre-application consultation. It would be useful at the point of submission to understand categorically and clearly where such agreements have and have not been reached in the context of all defined ZOI. Where professional judgement has been applied, justification should be provided in supporting the conclusions reached.
3.4 It is not always clear what the logic is behind the approach described in the HRA Screening Report. For some species, such as marine mammals, the approach appears to rely entirely on defining ZOI to establish which European site features could be affected by the Project while for others, such as lamprey and seabirds, the Screening Report refers to survey results. The HRA Screening Report must clearly explain the reasoning used to determine which features of European sites are likely to be affected by the Project.
3.5 Section 4.5.2 proposes to scope out river lamprey. The explanation in paragraph 2 of Section 4.5.2 is confusing. Is it implying that the river lamprey populations are separate from those of the nearest SAC populations? If this is the position being relied on then the HRA Screening Report should identify the evidence that supports this position.
3.6 Section 4.5.4 states that there is very little scientific research on the exact migration routes of salmon from natal rivers, but then goes on to exclude SACs located to the north of Anglesey for which salmon are a qualifying feature. This is on the grounds that salmon are likely to travel by the most direct route to their natal rivers. However, as there is limited research on this point it is not clear whether the approach outlined in Section 4.5.4 is sufficiently precautionary. The Applicant is strongly advised to agree the approach to identifying European sites where salmon are a qualifying feature with NRW.
3.7 For breeding seabirds, Section 4.6.2 states that the mean maximum foraging range plus one standard deviation will be used to determine connectivity with SPA or Ramsar sites. However, it goes on to state that where the data is not available to estimate the standard deviation or where the areas affected would be excessively large, the mean maximum foraging range will be used. It is not clear from the Screening Report why the mean maximum foraging range plus standard deviation was chosen in the first place; assessments undertaken for offshore wind farm developments have usually opted to use the mean maximum foraging range.
3.8 In section 22.214.171.124, there is an assumption based on the premise that where non-breeding sea bird populations are an SPA qualifying feature, they will be foraging within rather than outwith the SPA. No evidence has been presented to support this statement. The Applicant is strongly advised to agree the approach to identifying European sites with this type of feature with NRW.
3.9 The thresholds and the justification for their use in relation to wildfowl and waders are noted. The Applicant is strongly advised to agree their approach with NRW.
3.10 At section 4.7.4, there is a reference to sites that were included as part of the strategic HRA Site Report for Wylfa (alongside NPS EN-6) that are proposed to be excluded from the project level HRA (although noted that this to be kept under review). The Secretary of State will expect to see particular justification linking back to the ZOI’s as to why this approach is appropriate. In particular, reference is made to the Great Orme Head coastal zone in Section 4.3 of the report, whereas section 4.7.4 implies that the SAC itself will be scoped out.
4 LSE Screening
4.1 At paragraph 3 of section 5.1, reference is made to the definition of likely significant effects as given in the Welsh Assembly Government TAN 5. Reference should also be made here to the definitions and requirements set out in NPS EN-1 and EN-6 in the context of the DCO shadow HRA.
4.2 Note that on Table 5.1, row 5 refers to a potential for a LSE on Corsydd Môn/Anglesey Fens SAC and Corsydd Môn a Llyn/Anglesey and Llyn Fens Ramsar site. However, the SAC screening matrix also identifies a LSE for Cemlyn Bay SAC, Llyn Dinam SAC, and Holy Island Coast SAC. The Applicant should ensure consistency across the appendices and main text.
4.3 Table 5.1 row 6 refers to standard mitigation and management procedures for invasive non-native species. If such measures are to be relied upon to conclude no LSE, details of these measures and how they are secured should be provided within the HRA Screening Report.
4.4 Section 5.1 paragraph 2 notes that the LSE test is “the process of identifying potentially relevant European sites…and the likely impacts of a project upon the designated features of a European site, either alone or in combination with other plans and projects…” Section 1, paragraph 5 notes that as the extent of the ZOI is still being refined “it is not possible at this stage to undertake effective in-combination screening with respect to other plans and projects within the Project ZOI, because the study area for this exercise would be extremely large…”
4.5 We acknowledge the difficulty of undertaking the in-combination assessment before the ZOI have been refined but given the current timescales for this project, it is a matter of some concern that the approach to in-combination assessment has not yet been confirmed. The Screening Report should clearly explain how the in-combination assessment has been approached, particularly in relation to the extent to which the associated development and SPC has been considered.
4.6 Section 5.2.1, paragraph 3 states that the judgement as to whether a significant effect is likely needs to be based “on the best readily available information”. This does not seem to be in line with the relevant case law. Planning Inspectorate Advice Note 10, paragraphs 4.18 to 4.19 provides further detail on this point.
5.1 Section 3.2 paragraph 10 and section 3.3.1, paragraph 1– please note that the competent authority for the DCO application is the Secretary of State for Energy and Industrial Strategy, not the Planning Inspectorate.
5.2 For each of the screening categories and or categories of habitats and species identified within the report (sections 5.3.2 – 5.3.5), the use of figures and plans identifying the relevant ZOIs and Natura 2000 sites included within the assessment would be beneficial.
5.3 Section 3.3.1 – where agreements have been reached with Natural Resources Wales, Natural England and any non-statutory interest groups, these should be explained and evidence provided where possible. On a presentational matter, we suggest a more intuitive paragraph numbering system is used to enable easy referencing during the examination stage.
6.1 The Applicant is reminded of the advice on completing matrices in accordance with ‘Planning Inspectorate Advice note ten: Habitat Regulations Assessment relevant to nationally significant infrastructure projects’ (January 2016 version 7) and its accompanying appendices (attachment 1