Natural Resources Wales (NRW) expressed concern about the possibility of red kites colliding with the rotating blades. It questioned whether the applicant’s surveys followed best practice and refuted suggestions that the SPA’s importance was unrelated to the presence of kites within the designated area.
The applicant responded that surveys showed that none of the birds nested in the SPA or within a six-kilometre buffer zone around it. But NRW asserted that a ten-kilometre radius should be used for assessing whether significant effects would arise and, if so, how they could be mitigated.
In rejecting an examiner’s recommendation to issue a DCO under the Planning Act 2008 for the 89MW scheme, the secretary of state for energy and climate change acknowledged that the applicant proposed mitigation to reduce the risk of collisions by making the area under and around the turbines less attractive to the birds. However, she saw no certainty that this would reduce the risk of collision to an acceptable level.
She confirmed that she had undertaken an appropriate assessment under the Habitats Regulations, concluding that the risk of kites colliding with the turbines could not be ruled out. In the absence of any quantification of the reduction in collisions attributable to the proposed mitigation measures, she held that the scheme was likely to have an adverse impact on the SPA. She also considered that a proposed grid connection could affect four out of five special areas of conservation examined.
Given these conclusions, the secretary of state did not feel it necessary to comment on landscape and heritage impacts associated with the scheme. She pointed out that she could only grant consent where no adverse impact on the integrity of a site of European biodiversity importance was predicted, as required by regulation 61(5) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. In the absence of a full assessment of the effects, she deemed it inappropriate for her to consider whether the scheme was justified by an overriding public interest.
Examiner: Philip Asquith; Examination