Offshore Wind SEA Consultation Event - Maryport (Cumbria) - 18 February 2011
Influence of consultation on decision making
The purpose of the meeting was to present and check the accuracy of the findings of the consultation, with particular reference to the South West region, and to take on board any further views. Attendees were informed that any views expressed would be recorded and fed into the addendum to the consultation analysis. It was clarified that this did not constitute a formal extension to the formal consultation period, which ended in September 2010, but that views expressed at the meeting would be taken into consideration. There is no formal end point for these additional views to be given - the Government will be flexible with deadlines to take as many views into account as possible. However, views should be sent as soon as possible, given that the finalised plan will be published in mid March.
Alternative renewable technologies
Hydro electricity was raised as an example of cheaper energy production - it was noted that around 10 years ago Scottish Power was providing cheap electricity to Scotland, but that as the centre of ownership moved to Europe, the prices increased and benefits to Scottish people decreased.
The question was raised as to the environmental/carbon footprint of producing and installing wind farms. Attendees questioned how long it would take for the wind farm to 'pay back' the energy it required to make it. Officials clarified that carbon cost is being worked out as part of the socio-economic study.
It was asked why wave and tidal power has not been considered as this is generally a preferred option. Officials noted that initial assessments had shown that the Solway was not considered to be an area with suitable resource with technical and environmental constraints for wave and tidal energy development in the short term. It was clarified that further work is being undertaken on assessing the potential of Scotland's seas to accommodate wave and tidal energy development.
Attendees wanted to know what surveys have been done on sand movement, as there has been a large change in the sand movement in the area since the installation of Robin Rigg. Officials noted that this is something which can be considered by the Robin Rigg Monitoring Group and/or as something to be taken forward by Marine Scotland as part of its research programme.
Attendees wondered how far the noise generated by the wind farms would travel and what effects this would have on fish. EMF effects were also raised as a concern. Officials clarified that assessments will be done before any licence is granted. Developers have to undertake and submit an Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA). This Environmental Statement is made available for public consultation.
It was also clarified that any site specific surveys on e.g. fish or the seabed would be the responsibility of the developer. Attendees suggested that the developer will not wish to do this, in case they find something, and are more likely to report a sterile environment. However it was clarified that any surveys must go to Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland and others for review.
Attendees expressed the feeling that the Solway Firth has been singled out and targeted for wind farm development. Officials clarified that the short term sites in the Solway Firth were provided by the Crown Estate Commissioners, and that they are within Scottish Territorial Waters ( STW) as this was where The Crown Estate Commissioners' leasing round was limited to.
Impacts on Fishing
A number of concerns were raised in relation to impacts on fishing. Attendees believed that there had not been enough engagement with the fishing industry. It was noted that the NFFO had made a response to the consultation and had raised a number of concerns. Officials agreed to check that these views had been taken into account.
Further detail on fishing constraints in the area was provided. As there are few species in the Irish Sea, and these are seasonal, it is difficult to fish from Workington and Maryport. Taking into account cumulative effects of constructed and proposed wind farms to the north and south of Cumbria, there are few fishing grounds left other than deep narrow channels. Any further development could displace the fleet and would drive the imbalance further south. It was suggested that even where there is compensation available (e.g. West of Morecambe fund), it is difficult to prove that you have been fishing that area due to the detail of records required. The Walney 2 wind farm being constructed off Barrow-in-Furness is over prawn and nephrops grounds. If there is no fishing west of the Isle of Man, there could possibly be fishermen from there in the same area as Cumbrian fishermen. Marine Conservation Zones were also raised as a concern, with three planned in the area.
It was felt that offshore wind development conflicts with the work being done on inshore fisheries and the European funding secured for Cumbria to develop a business strategy for the fishing industry and communities. There is a fear that the fishing industry could die and along with it the fishing communities. Officials noted that some fishing is compatible with offshore wind farms, such as static gear fishing.
Some attendees felt that fishing is likely to be dismissed as a politically insignificant issue and that fishermen need to represent themselves. Officials clarified that fishing is a high priority for Scottish Ministers, in particular for the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, who is also leading on this offshore wind consultation. The Scottish Government have been working with the SFF and others in the fishing industry, but officials recognised that more cross-border engagement may be appropriate in the future.
It was re-emphasised that offshore wind development would have an enormous impact on the fishing industry and small businesses in particular, that it is crucial to know where people fish and that VMS data is not enough to go on. Officials noted that a pilot fishing study is underway in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, which will then be rolled out across Scotland, to take account of all fishing activity, not just vessels with VMS. Attendees noted that this would not include English vessels and this had been flagged in NFFO's response. Further to this, only one boat out of Maryport has VMS. Officials confirmed that the NFFO response had been taken into consideration in preparation of the consultation analysis and would check that this point was included specifically in reference to the South West region. It was noted that fishing in the Solway and in e.g. Orkney are very different. Officials encouraged attendees to submit any further details on this.
The NFFO noted that they could help in distributing information to fishermen to plot where they fish. Officials undertook a commitment to forward on details of the Pentland Firth pilot fishing study to the local NFFO representative.
Other marine users
It was noted that the Irish Sea is congested - even more so under the water. Safety issues were raised in relation to this, with the example of the Solway Harvester given. It was felt that there is no space in the Solway Firth for wind farms.
It was noted that the Irish Sea is more of a lake - it is shallow and has sedimentation. It was suggested that if there is congestion due to wind farms, grain boats which currently go in to Silloth harbour may not do so, which could close the harbour.
Aquaculture in the Solway has to be taken into account. An oyster farmer noted that the sand movements in the area were changing. Officials noted that this should be reported to Natural England, as the statutory nature conservation advisory body and E. ON, as the developer for Robin Rigg.
Attendees felt that there should be a right of access to data, including data from Robin Rigg. There was frustration that the wind farm had been operational for two years but no information was available publicly. Officials confirmed that we do not have access to this as it is commercially sensitive information and noted that some information requires several years' worth of data before conclusions can be corroborated. Attendees felt that it was important to have the facts before continuing with any further development.
Attendees gave a clear message that they do not want any more wind farms in the Solway Firth. The visual amenity of the area was an important issue, and one attendee particularly raised how important the 'Scottish sunsets' are in the area. It was felt that further wind turbines would have an extremely negative impact. Officials noted that seascape is an important issue and there is guidance coming forward on this. It was also noted that Marine Scotland plan to begin specific studies into seascape impacts under the marine planning and licensing processes.
One attendee noted that having visited Scotland to see the impact of wind turbines, the impact was such that they would not return.
Attendees noted that visualisations of the proposed developments were lacking from any of the presentational materials. Officials confirmed that visualisations would need to be prepared by the developer at the licensing stage, should any project proceed. Attendees noted that the visualisations which were produced for Robin Rigg bore little resemblance to how it looked once constructed. It was noted that people want to see what it would look like and how many turbines there would be. One attendee quoted figures which had been raised by an attendee at one of the Dumfries events, of the potential for around 1000 turbines in the Solway Firth. Officials clarified that this number related to the proposed short term options in Scottish territorial waters overall and not just in the South West region. Officials noted details of the design of the wind farm would be much further down the process.
The process from this point onwards was outlined. Once Scottish Ministers have considered all the evidence and made their decisions on the content of the final plan, it will be published. The Crown Estate Commissioners will then hold discussions with the developers who hold exclusivity agreements for the short term options and will decide whether to go forward to the next step of granting a formal lease for the individual sites. There is also a separate licensing process which developers would need to undertake if they choose to progress any project.
Attendees felt that it was clear that there is a strong feeling in Dumfries and Galloway that these wind farms are not wanted and that this was also true for Cumbria. It was noted that all the points presented in relation to the South West area were negative and it was suggested that the consultation would have been pointless if these views did not influence the final plan. Officials agreed that this feeling had come across clearly and that noted that the views would all go to Scottish Ministers to inform their decisions on the content of the final plan. Officials agreed that the consultation is an important part of the evidence which is to be considered.
Attendees thought it would be more sensible to wait, leaving time to see the effects of Robin Rigg, which could show if there was any potential environmental disaster. Workington and Dumfries had already experienced natural disasters and if the wind farms were to go ahead this could have a massive impact. Attendees felt that the process was being rushed and that there are risks to lives and livelihoods from these proposals. It was felt that wind farms could cause more harm than good and it was noted that communities would not be moved on the issue.
Some attendees expressed concern that there was no scientist providing information at the event. Officials confirmed that the Government has been working with scientific colleagues and external professionals in the development of all the work on offshore wind, and if there were any specific technical questions that could not be answered at the event, these could be taken away and answered afterwards.
It was suggested that, as energy is lost during transmission, that the energy should be generated in cities, where it is required. Attendees wished to know where the electricity generated would be taken ashore, but it was clarified that this would be information held by the developer.
One attendee stated that whilst further offshore wind was put in the Solway, Cumbria has been chosen as the site for a future radioactive waste repository. It was suggested that this would have the potential to spread radioactive waste around the entire Scottish coast.
It was noted that the English/Scottish Territorial Waters border was not noted on the maps provided. Officials noted this and will include this in the final version.