The Hornsea 3 offshore wind farm poses an existential threat to bird species at risk of global extinction.
The long-standing struggle between corporate economic interest and environmental priorities, running back into the nineteenth century, is being resolved conclusively and in favour of the developers of industrial development. Climate change objectives have simultaneously drawn the teeth of legal protections for the natural world and its inhabitants, while empowering investors in vast construction projects. The recent award of planning consent to the Hornsea 3 wind farm, in UK offshore waters, is perfect illustration of the point.
If a British Secretary of State ignored the advice of his own planning inspectors and over-rode a powerful international protection for a Red-listed species of bird to give consent to a power station development so large it will be visible from space there would of course be a deafening outcry from environmentalists, right? But, anyway, no Secretary of State would do such a thing, right?
Wrong, sadly, wrong on both counts.
On the 31st of December last year, and just before standing down as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to concentrate on Chairing the 26th UN Climate Conference (COP26), the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP gave the go-ahead to the Hornsea 3 offshore wind farm in spite of a recommendation by the inspectors to refuse because of the unacceptable impact on Kittiwake populations.
The 231 turbine, 2.4 GW, Hornsea project is planned to cover 700 square kilometres off the Norfolk to Yorkshire coasts, and will have an acknowledged negative impact on Kittiwake resting and nesting sites at Flamborough and Filey, which are protected by Natura 2000, one of the most rigorous regulations safeguarding land vital to the interests of rare and threatened species.
The response from the normally raucous greens? The RSPB said it was “unhappy”. Bird lovers will be angry. The RSPB would have been angry once too. As recently as 2017 they were reporting that the Kittiwake was now “facing the risk of global extinction”, with very substantial declines in both world and British populations.
The Hornsea consent is a deeply threatening decision, invoking what will seem to many a poorly justified Imperative Reason of Over-riding Public Interest (IROPI) to brush aside a breach of Natura 2000 so strong that inspectors did not believe it could be offset.
The precedent is horrific, and the wind industry can’t contain their excitement. “Hornsea 3 green light ‘opens derogation floodgates’ in UK” said one headline in a renewables sector journal.
But the greens have only themselves to blame. Having created an irrational fear of climate change, the environmental lobbies are now reaping the whirlwind. The promise of reducing carbon emissions can now be taken as tipping the scale against even the strictest of hard-won environmental protections such as Natura 2000, and giving licence to some of the largest industrial engineering projects ever contemplated in wild and previously undeveloped areas.
This leads to a bizarre paradox. Environmentalism may seem to be triumphant at present, but in fact it is in a state of physical and moral collapse, being pushed back in fragile marine ecologies, in remote wilderness and in unique environments around the world by metal bashers and concrete pourers building the “low-carbon economy”. And so-called environmentalists are helping them in a grim bureaucratic parody of sincere love for the natural world. Environmentalism is dead.