To receive a presentation from representatives of DONG Energy.
Guy Kenyon, Senior Planning Officer – Major Development and David Haughian, Strategic Programme Coordinator – Nuclear gave a brief outline of the planning process from the county council’s perspective. The application was a nationally significant infrastructure project and the council were the lead Authority. The development consent for the application would be submitted in May 2013. It was the Planning Inspectorate role to then make recommendations to the Secretary of State. Barrow Local Committee views would be sought during the summer, with the Development Control and Regulation Committee considering the Local Impact Report just after. A report would then be submitted to Cabinet for them to consider and reach a view on the application. The Council’s Local Impact Report and comments will then be made to the Planning Inspectorate in late summer 2013. Examination of the application commences in autumn 2013.
The Committee then received a presentation from Cliff Pullen, Emily Marshall and Peter Sills from DONG Energy. 'The proposal, if successful would be the largest offshore windfarm in the world. Although, there were a few bigger windfarms, which are onshore. The consultation process began in 2010 with a number of stakeholders. Consultation events undertaken in 2011 and 2012 had 275 and 367 participants respectively. Out of those consulted in 2011 66% supported wind turbines in the Irish Sea, 59% supported the Walney extension, 38% agreed it created jobs and 36% did not know. In 2012, 55% supported wind turbines in the Irish Sea, 43% supported the Walney extension, 31% agreed it would create jobs and 38% did not know. Mr Sills stated that the general level of support had reduced slightly between the first and second round but added that it was quite normal in his experience and in general, support remained high.
Mr Worth noted that 43% supported the extension and asked if that meant that 57% were against it, or if there were some not knowns/undecided. He was informed of those 28% did not know and 29% disagreed. Mrs Macur queried the number of those from the local area who were in support. The focus had been on those communities who would have a seascape/landscape/visual impact and feedback forms gathered from the 7 local events asked for participants postcodes. The data was then plotted onto a map which showed they all lived within a five mile radius of the extension. Of those from Walney and Barrow, 7 strongly agreed, 11 agreed, 5 did not know, 2 disagreed and 4 strongly disagreed. Mrs Burns garnered from the response that the majority of participants were residents of Douglas on the Isle of Man. Her assumption was correct and their main concerns were to do with the shipping lines, 33 strongly agreed/agreed, 39 did not know and 34 disagreed. Ms Marshall added that the key concerns raised by the community was the environmental impact, local economic impact, community fund, impact on sea users and the size of the turbines. Mr Roberts added that the maritime issue was obviously substantial and asked who had been consulted. The Navigational Working Group, Trinity House, Fleetwood Nautical Camp, Steam Packet Company and Sea Truck and other users of the Irish Sea had been consulted from the outset.
The Chair was concerned that the photo montage of the viewpoint from Walney was not to scale and believed it did not reflect what local people observed. He was informed it was a 360 degree view, giving a flat perspective which should be viewed in the curve. They could not show the complete scale as yet, because it was not finalised.
Mr Pullen gave a breakdown of the estimated £11.5m in economic benefits to the area, based on construction of Walney 1 & 2. The Chair requested a copy of the breakdown along with the estimated number of jobs that would be created. The Chair asked for the current output of Walney 1 & 2 and was informed it was 560MW. He noted that the area had received only £15,000 in community benefits last year. If the average was £1,000 per MW then the benefit expected should have been in the region of £560k. Historically, community benefit packages had been sought for onshore windfarm developments but DONG were open to the possibility of a Community Benefit Fund inline with other developers. The Chair believed now would be a good time to make a commitment to a community benefit scheme. In response, Mr Pullen replied that the proposal was still in the project stage and it would not be appropriate. However, Mr Haughian reported that a letter had been submitted by the county council to DONG asking them to consider how a community benefit could be calculated. He added that a Community Benefit package was completely separate from the planning process, as were any socio-economic benefits.
Mrs Burns understood the need for renewable energy but her preference was for a bridge across the Bay that could generate electricity using tidal power. She wondered if DONG would have put the application forward, had it not been for the significant government subsidies. It was her belief that the extension was not as ‘green’ as DONG made out due to the turbines being manufactured overseas and shipped in. There was an already highly skilled manufacturing workforce in the area, that had the potential to produce the turbines. Mr Pullen, in response to the points raised explained that the turbines were procured from an overseas supplier because there were no manufacturers in the UK. The estuary did not generate enough tidal power to produce electricity and in any case nuclear submarines took precedent in the area. The government subsidy had reduced from £1.9m to £1.8m but they still believed it was worthwhile. In reflection Mr Roberts agreed that a mix of energy was required and hoped they took onboard all that was said by members. However, he did consider that the company’s profile in the area needed to be raised. The Chair thanked the officers and representatives from DONG for their presentation.
RESOLVED, that the presentation be received.