This document has been produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in order to provide developers with a greater understanding of the potential nature conservation impacts of offshore windfarms and specifically the steps they are legally obliged to follow to ensure these do not harm the Natura 2000 network.
Thus the primary focus is on impacts that may affect Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which jointly comprise the Nature 2000 site network. It specifically addresses issues that may arise where the area identified for a windfarm development is within a site designated as a SPA or SAC under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives (Directives 92/43/CEE on the conservation of natural habitats and 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds) or is likely to affect such a site.
The guidance does not cover impacts on navigation or fishing activities, to landscape or seascape, or recreation and access interests.
The guidance note builds on knowledge learnt from Round I developments and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process.
The aim is to provide developers with an overview of the types of nature conservation impacts that may be caused by construction, operation and decommissioning of an offshore windfarm and steps that can be taken to overcome these. The guidance covers nature conservation impacts on:
- marine mammals;
- fish and shellfish;
- subtidal benthos;
- intertidal habitats;
- terrestrial and coastal habitats; and
- coastal and sedimentary processes.
The guidance has been structured around a series of flowcharts that are designed to aid navigation around the document, particularly in electronic format. Section numbers are included in the flowcharts, so they can also be consulted when the document is in paper format. Each of the impact sections (Sections 2 to 8) are structured in the same way to allow a series of key questions relating to likely impacts on the environment:
- is there likely to be an impact?
- is the impact significant?
- will the impact cause adverse effect?
- and, if so, what approaches may be available to minimise the impact, covering best practice, mitigation measures and monitoring.
- A note on compensation is provided separately at Annex 1, should mitigation be unable to reduce the impacts to acceptable levels
As much as possible of the key information is included in tables and/or brief sections of text with key points highlighted by the use of bullets. The objective has been to make the guidance as accessible as possible, with the use of jargon kept to a minimum.