The secretary of state for energy and climate change considered that in the absence of any adverse effects that would be unacceptable in planning terms, consent would be consistent with the EN-1 overarching national policy statement on energy and EN-3 on renewable energy. These set out a national need for nationally significant electricity network infrastructure of the type proposed, he noted.
The examiner identified concerns over noise from nighttime piling operations on coastal residents. To help mitigate this, a requirement was imposed for the applicant to put in place mechanisms to inform the local community of plans for piling work and for reporting concerns.
While accepting that the turbines, which would have a maximum height of 223m and a generating capacity of 250MW, would bring substantial visual impacts, the secretary of state decided that the harm caused was outweighed by the renewable energy benefits.
The examination established that the proposal would have a significant effect on six European sites identified in the Habitat Regulations. An appropriate assessment gave particular consideration to its impacts upon red-throated divers from the Liverpool Bay special protection area (SPA) centred on the potential for displacement effects from the development in combination with other plans and projects.
The examiner concluded that additional red-throated diver mortality of 84 birds due to density-dependent effects from displacement and the other projects would not reduce the current population of 1,188 below the level of 922 at which the site was designated. On that basis, the secretary of state concluded that the SPA would remain in favourable condition even with the additional mortality rate.
Examiner: Rynd Smith; Hearings