Constructed Large Scale Wind Farm | Kent
New Rides Wind Farm, located on the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent, comprises four wind turbines located in a unique setting adjacent to an RSPB nature reserve and close to an internationally designated site for birds. The area supports large numbers of waterfowl, raptors and breeding waders, as well as a high density of water voles. Avian Ecology provided comprehensive support for this highly complex project, through design, field surveys, provision of robust EIA documentation, planning support, discharge of planning conditions, construction (ECoW) services and operational monitoring. Obtaining planning consent required detailed ornithology surveys to provide a clear picture of bird activity both on and around the wind farm site. The surveys demonstrated that the land immediately around the proposed turbines was rarely used by wetland bird species, assessed as being due to a combination of habitat type, topography and land management. Our understanding of the data meant we could then identify opportunities for substantial habitat gain for birds through the conversion of a 24ha field from low productivity cattle grazing to wet pasture. This scarce habitat would complement those which are present within protected areas locally and is vitally important for wetland birds, effectively created an extension to the RSPB nature reserve. From the developers perspective, this approach considerably improved the likelihood of a successful consent, which can be notoriously difficult for wind farm developments, especially in England. Avian Ecology worked with the Airvolution Clean Energy, the design team, the RSPB and Natural England throughout the planning process, agreeing a management plan that would both benefit nature conservation and simplify the planning process. The site’s proximity to The Swale Special Protection Area (SPA) required further detailed Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), and the Avian Ecology team also worked closely with Kent County Council to ensure this process was successfully completed and fully compliant, therefore reducing risk of later challenge. Planning permission was awarded following appeal on landscape grounds, and with Energiekontor UK Ltd. the Avian Ecology team ensured all ecology-related planning conditions were efficiently discharged. The 24ha wet pasture enhancement area was created by raising water levels in the network of drainage ditches, which in turn involved specialist mitigation for water voles under licence from Natural England. Avian Ecology secured the licence and led a team of hydrologists and contractors to ensure capital works were completed correctly, enabling the wind farm construction works to commence on schedule. The habitat enhancement area will be managed for the benefit of birds and other wildlife for at least 25 years under the supervision of an independent steering group, with success verified by a clear programme of monitoring. The New Rides Wind Farm project is an exemplar of how renewable energy projects and biodiversity can achieve mutual benefits, and has been submitted in the ‘Sustainability’ category of the prestigious Construction Excellence SECBE 2019 awards.