A decision on whether offshore windfarms off the Suffolk coast will be built has been pushed back by three months, it has emerged.
The Planning Inspectorate on Thursday confirmed it has extended the examination period for ScottishPower Renewables’ plans for the East Anglia One North (EA1N) and East Anglia Two (EA2) windfarm proposals until July 6 – three months later than the planned examination end date of Tuesday next week.
That extends the whole process by the months.
The Planning Inspectorate said the extension, requested on February 9, was required as a result of Covid-19.
“The main reasons were the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions and two national lockdowns on the ability of interested parties, local authorities and statutory bodies to engage effectively in the examinations,” Rynd Smith, lead member of the examining authority at the Planning Inspectorate wrote.
His letter explained that those restrictions had also impacted “the ability of the panels and case teams to examine applications fully and produce robust recommendation reports that would enable the SoS [secretary of state] to reach decisions within the statutory timescales,” and that two simultaneous examinations had resulted in a “strain” on the system.
Furious campaigners described the delay as ” a complete shambles” and said the timing was “curious”.
Michael Mahony, from the Substation Action Save East Suffolk (SASES) campaign group, said people had been given less than one working day’s notice because of the Easter bank holiday.
“They took over seven weeks to respond [to the request for an extension]. I don’t think there is a real appreciation for how oppressed people are feeling about this process,” he said.
“People were looking forward to the process being over so they can go on with their lives until the decision.
“People have lived with uncertainty for a long time already. The whole thing is dragging on for another three months – there doesn’t seem to be any thought of the human consequences [mental health anxiety] of this decision.”
At the end of the examination period, the Planning Inspectorate has three months to pen a report with its recommendations, which is submitted to the secretary of state. They then make a decision within a further three months.
Under the original timeline, that would have meant a decision by October, but the extension means that will not be until January 2022 now.
A spokesman from ScottishPower said: “Throughout the examinations process, we have continually made a robust and compelling case – as a long-standing and responsible developer – for these two essential projects and the environmental and economic benefits they will deliver for the East of England and beyond.
“We will continue to work with all stakeholders within the revised timetable to resolve any outstanding issues so we can deliver the clean energy – and green future – we all need to meet both the Government’s offshore wind targets for 2030 as well as overall net zero ambitions for 2050.”
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