Over the last year, E.ON has listened to feedback received from over 1,000 people and organisations in Sussex through a major community consultation and has made changes to its Rampion Offshore Wind Farm proposals which were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on Friday 14 December.
The final plans will be publicly available once the Planning Inspectorate has carried out checks on the application in the new year, when the public will be able to access the application documents and submit any comments they may have on the final proposals to the Inspectorate.
Chris Tomlinson, E.ON Development Manager for the project, said: "We're very grateful for the level of interest the local community have shown in this project. Having considered their feedback and taken on board their views, we've made some significant changes to improve our proposals that will reduce the impact on the local community, while maintaining a project capable of generating electricity for the needs of two thirds of the homes in Sussex."
The main concerns highlighted through the consultation were the visual impact of the wind farm from the Sussex Heritage Coast, the impact on fishermen and sea users and the impact of the onshore cable route on the South Downs National Park.
E.ON has worked to reduce the wind farm area by almost a quarter of the area consulted upon and to around half that originally awarded by The Crown Estate in January 20102. This has been achieved by removing an area to the southeast of the site, therefore reducing the proportion of the wind farm visible from the Heritage Coast by over 35%.
This change has also led to a reduction in the maximum number of proposed turbines by 20, meaning the project could feature between 100 and 175 turbines depending on the model selected. The site could still accommodate an installed electrical capacity of up to 700MW, which E.ON estimates could generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of around 450,000 homes.
In response to concerns of the impact on the South Downs National Park, E.ON has put forward a number of solutions. These include a ducted method of cable installation to reduce the time required for trenching and restoration, tailored construction to reduce the impact on the chalk grasslands at Tottington Mount and a commitment to communicate with users, informing them of the impact on Public Rights of Way.
Following concerns raised about semi natural ancient woodland outside the National Park, minor realignments of the cable route have been introduced to avoid ecologically sensitive areas. E.ON has also listened to concerns about traffic on Bob Lane highlighted by residents living near the proposed new substation and has confirmed that there will be no construction access from Bob Lane after the initial construction site is established. In response to calls to lessen the visual impact of the substation, tree planting is planned along the northern and southern boundaries of the substation site to reduce visual impact.
E.ON has also undertaken further engineering work, resulting in a reduction in the maximum number of gravity base foundations that may be required. This will play a key part in minimising the impact on wave heights which the surfing and wave sports community were concerned about. With this change wave heights will only be impacted by around 3%, compared to the potential 22% featured in the original proposals.
The Planning Inspectorate will now consider the proposals over a 28 day statutory 'acceptance' period. The application will then be publicised in the first quarter of 2013, when those who wish to comment on the proposals will be able to register an interest with the Planning Inspectorate who will be assessing the application, at http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk
. Anyone interested in finding out more about the proposed offshore wind farm should email
or call 01273 694 876.