Introduction: This document, funded by a grant from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), sets out guidelines to follow in assessing cumulative impacts of offshore wind farms. The document was produced by WSP consultants, with input and co-ordination from RenewableUK. This document is chiefly aimed at planning and offshore industry professionals with an interest in the application of Cumulative Impact Assessments (CIAs) in the context of the offshore wind farm consenting process, as well as environmental and public stakeholders with an interest in regulation and guidance in this sector.
Background: The requirement to asses cumulative effects was originally set out in the European Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 85/337/EEC (since amended by further Directives) and by the EC Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC. ‘Cumulative impacts’, according to European Commission (EC) guidelines (May 1999), should mean ‘impacts that result from incremental changes caused by other past, present or reasonably foreseeable actions together with the project’. Over the last few years the CIA has become an issue of increasing importance for offshore wind developers. In a study by RenewableUK and NERC ‘Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) has been identified as an area of concern causing substantial delays of up to 42 months in some Section 36 applications in the approval of planning consents for offshore wind farms.
Solutions: In the document we consider a number of practical solutions in order to overcome the challenges of CIA. These including defining what a meaningful assessment is, and tackling challenges on scoping, data, assessment and monitoring and mitigation. The document recommends that scoping takes place early on with clear boundaries outlined at the earliest possible opportunity with key stakeholders and Government. Furthermore, it recommends that data is shared to a greater extent and that the CIA influences both mitigation and monitoring plans.