Wind farm project’s impact on marine mammals to come under scrutiny at hearing

The potential impact of a proposed wind farm on marine mammals is to be discussed at a hearing this

The potential impact of a proposed wind farm on marine mammals is to be discussed at a hearing this week. Pictured, a grey seal. Picture; James Bass - Credit: James Bass © 2015

The spotlight will be shone on how a proposed multi-billion pound wind farm could impact on sealife, the shipping industry and traffic this week, as the decision process over it continues.

Danish energy firm Orstead is bidding to build what would be the world's biggest offshore wind farm off the north Norfolk coast, which would also see a cable corridor dug across the county.

The ambitious project is currently under consideration from the planning inspectorate, in what will be a lengthy process with several individual hearings.

This week, a panel will hear evidence on how the project could impact on a range of matters across three separate hearings, to be held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The first hearing will centre on how it could affect the ecology of the site, located more than 100km off the coast, including the impact on marine mammals.

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The following day will then assess how it could encroach on aviation, shipping and oil and gas operations, before looking into traffic impact at Friday's hearing.

The latest hearings begin the day after a detailed site visit, which saw the panel visit several locations which could be impacted, including Oulton Airfield, Cawston and a point near Reepham at which proposed cable routes for the Hornsea Three project and a separate proposal from Vattenfall would cross.

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Once this week's hearings have been carried out, further will be conducted later this month before the panel completes its examination of the evidence on Tuesday, April 2.

From this point the panel will have three months to prepare a report before Greg Clarke, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, is tasked with deciding the application - a process which could take another three months.

It means Orstead will likely not discover the fate of the project until October.

Previous hearings have focussed on the project's potential impact on other sites across Europe and wildlife onshore.

The three hearings this week are to be held at the Mercure Hotel on Boundary Road in Norwich, starting at 9.30am.

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