A decision on whether the world’s largest offshore wind farm will be built has been delayed amid fears it will harm endangered birds.
The Government was meant to rule on October 2 whether or not the Hornsea Three wind farm – 120 kilometres off the north Norfolk coast – would get the go-ahead.
But that has been put back for six months until March next year after Natural England raised fears that the huge wind farm would harm the populations of kittiwakes, gannets and the lesser black-backed gull which breed on the east coast.
Kittiwakes have a conservation status of “red”, meaning they are in severe decline, while gannets and the lesser black-backed gull are rated as “amber”.
In a letter from the RSPB to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the bird charity said the breeding populations of all three bird species would be harmed.
They also said the “integrity” of the special protection area at Filey on the Yorkshire coast would be impacted.
The RSPB said the new advice from Natural England was of “great importance” to the Hornsea Three decision.
Danish energy firm Orsted, with Natural England, must now look at any alternative solutions that would lessen the impacts on nature or prove that the project is in the “overriding public interest”.
It also has to look at ways to reduce the impact on the north Norfolk Sandbanks, The Wash and the marine conservation zone at Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds.
Jenny Smedley, a campaigner for the Necton Substations Action Group which has led opposition to offshore wind farm projects, said: “It’s very good to see the new Secretary of State being vigilant.
“This delay, if it also goes across the board will allow time for the strategy in general to be re-evaluated, which is seriously needed.”
When built, the wind farm will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of two million homes.
A cable corridor will also need to be dug from Weybourne on the coast to Swardeston, south of Norwich, to connect the wind farm to the National Grid. That could lead to eight years of construction work.
An Orsted spokesperson said: “We are currently reviewing the notice from the Secretary of State and will work closely with the relevant stakeholders to provide a response in due course. We continue to work towards a positive decision on Hornsea Three in March 2020.”