By Sarah Ward and Jess Price
Living Seas Officer and Conservation Officer
RWE have launched an informal consultation on their plans to expand the Rampion Offshore Windfarm off the Sussex coast. They want people to visit their website to view further information about the project, take a tour of their ‘Virtual Village Hall Exhibition’ and let them know what you think.
Whilst Sussex Wildlife Trust wants to see more renewable energy, such a big infrastructure project inevitably poses risks to wildlife, so we are working to understand what these risks might be and whether we think these risks can be avoided or minimised. We have representatives on both the marine and terrestrial ecology ‘Expert Topic Groups’ and are interested to see the results of the survey work the Rampion team are currently undertaking.
On land, we are disappointed that the existing cable route does not have sufficient capacity for the extension. This means finding a new cable route and digging up more habitats. However, the Rampion team is working to avoid any protected sites or habitats as they try to set out their preferred cable route. Sussex Wildlife Trust absolutely want any valuable sites and habitats for wildlife to be avoided and are pushing the project team to include a biodiversity ‘net gain’. We are also asking that the team learns lessons from the implementation of Rampion 1 to make sure that any habitat restoration or creation is as effective as possible.
At sea, we have particular concern over the potential proximity to two designated Marine Conservation Zones (Kingmere and Offshore Overfalls) and the effect the construction may have on the protected features of these sites. Moreover, we are advising that the developers consider the cumulative effects of construction and other pre-existing pressures, such as nearby areas of aggregate dredging. Although the protected areas stand out, we are also urging the developers to ensure important and fragile habitats that sit outside of protected areas are given due consideration, notably chalk reef and nesting sites of Black Seabream.
As offshore wind developments are accelerating nationally, The Wildlife Trusts are working collaboratively with us so that we can make appropriate representation on a local and national level, applying the local knowledge as well as more universal expertise on offshore wind.
Sussex Wildlife Trust will continue to examine the proposals as more detail is presented and continue to give wildlife a voice where we think it is being neglected. If you would like to find out more please visit the Rampion 2 website.
This initial consultation closes on 11th February 2021.