Conservationists are dismayed by government approval for a new offshore wind farm which they warn will have “disastrous consequences” for seabirds.
The RSPB said the decision to forge ahead with the project off the Norfolk coast flies in the face of ministers’ pledges to halt the loss of wildlife.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng gave the go-ahead for the Norfolk Boreas wind farm, which would be about 45 miles offshore and cover 289 sq miles.
The project is designed to potentially provide clean energy to up to 2 million homes.
Mr Kwarteng said the project would make a “substantial contribution” to “the delivery of renewable energy”.
But some of the UK’s most important colonies of endangered seabirds, such as razorbills, kittiwakes and lesser black-backed gulls inhabit the north Norfolk coastal area.
The RSPB said ministers were oblivious to the effects of their decisions on loss of biodiversity.
Katie-Jo Luxton, the charity’s conservation director, said: “The East Anglia and Yorkshire coasts are home to globally important seabird strongholds but their future here is uncertain.
“The cumulative impacts from increasing numbers of turbines in already-degraded seas are predicted to have disastrous consequences for kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, lesser black-backed gulls and many of the other amazing birds relying on our seas.”
The scheme is very close to Bempton Cliffs, which is home to more than 200,000 breeding pairs each season, experts say.
And the south North Sea is likely to be used by tens of thousands of seabirds throughout the season.
The RSPB says many seabirds return to the same place to breed and will have regular foraging areas. “This is their local supermarket that the colony has been using for decades. It’s not just a case of them now finding somewhere else, in what is already an overcrowded sea,” a spokesman told The Independent.
Ms Luxton slammed the marine planning system as “failing nature and net zero”, saying planners acknowledged further development would harm the marine environment.
“The decision to go ahead with the offshore wind farm highlights that the tools available for decision-makers to deliver low carbon energy are not fit for purpose.
“Increasingly this results in the secretary of state taking decisions which permit action on climate while accepting the results will lead to wildlife declines and worsening the nature emergency.
“Industry alone cannot reconcile this challenge and as yet the only proposals to address the loss of wildlife are taking a gamble with our already-struggling seabirds,” she added.
“We are deeply concerned that without system change, the UK will continue to lose nature and fail to reach 2030 offshore wind targets.”
Earlier this year, a judge overturned planning consent for a sister project, called Vanguard.
Ms Luxton said: “Our prime minister has rightly set ambitious targets for offshore wind expansion, and in England the new Environment Act has committed Westminster to halting wildlife declines. We now need to see ambition and commitment turned into action.”
The Norfolk Boreas project was examined by the Planning Inspectorate and a public consultation.
The business department told The Independent for the next six weeks people could apply for judicial review of the decision, and that the decision was taken after a thorough consideration of all relevant matters.
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