The wind farm planned for between 8 and 15 miles south of Brighton and Hove in the English Channel will be the subject of a public inquiry.
The proposed Rampion offshore wind farm has been “accepted for examination” by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
This means that the Planning Inspectorate can hold a public inquiry to decide whether to recommend that power company Eon should be allowed to build the wind farm.
Eon said that the latest decision had been made after consultation feedback from more than 1,500 people and organisations in Sussex.
Chris Tomlinson, the project development manager, said that the responses had been used to shape the wind farm proposals.
Mr Tomlinson said: “We’re delighted to reach this important milestone and that the application will now be considered by the Planning Inspectorate.
“In finalising our proposals, we’ve been very grateful for the level of interest shown by the local community and the comments we have received.
“The feedback from the consultations has helped us shape the proposals and further 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.”
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said: “I’m pleased that matters are moving forward.
“This development, if given permission, will create an initial 85 jobs in Newhaven as well as helping the UK both to become more energy self-sufficient and cut carbon emissions.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Following a period of further consultation by Eon, I’m delighted that the proposals for the Rampion wind farm are now back on the table and hope the project will get the green light.
“This exciting clean energy development could provide secure and sustainable power for a huge number of homes in Brighton and Hove as well as creating local jobs, slashing carbon emissions and boosting the region’s reputation as a place for investment in green industries.”
If built, the wind farm could have up to 175 turbines and a capacity of 700MW which could generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of about 450,000 homes.
Notices are now being placed in local and national newspapers under section 56 of the Planning Act 2008 setting out how the community can register their opinions with the Planning Inspectorate.
The public will be able to view Eon’s final proposals and register as an “interested party” with the Planning Inspectorate until Saturday 11 May 2013 at http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/projects/south-east/rampion-offshore-wind-farm/.
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
- the impact of the onshore cable route on the South Downs National Park
Eon has worked to reduce the wind farm area by almost a quarter of the area consulted upon and to about half that originally awarded by the Crown Estate in January 2010.
This has been achieved by removing an area to the southeast of the site, reducing the view of the wind farm visible from the Heritage Coast by more than 35 per cent.
This change led to a reduction in the maximum number of proposed turbines by 20, meaning that the project could feature between 100 and 175 turbines depending on the model selected.
In response to concerns about the impact on the South Downs National Park, Eon 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.
After concerns were raised about semi-natural ancient woodland outside the national park, minor realignments of the cable route have been introduced to avoid ecologically sensitive areas.
Eon has also undertaken further engineering work, resulting in a reduction in the maximum number of gravity base foundations that may be required.
This will help to minimise the impact on wave heights which the surfing and wave sports community were concerned about.
With this change, wave heights will be affected by about 3 per cent, compared with the potential 22 per cent featured in the original proposals.
A final decision on whether consent will be granted will not be made until the summer of next year.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the proposed offshore wind farm should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 603721.