An application for a wind turbine at the Queen’s Dock, Swansea was granted at appeal in July 2015. The turbine will generate electricity for port operations, with any excess power exported to the local grid network. Ecological work to support the application was undertaken by BSG Ecology, working on behalf of the developer, Infinergy, and the operator ABP Ports.
BSG Ecology’s Role in the Project
BSG undertook an initial data search for ecological information relating to the Docks. This involved reviewing information supplied by the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBREC) and from other sources such as annual Gower Bird Reports. From these it was clear that botanical, invertebrate and ornithological data had been collected for the area that provided a useful insight into the habitats likely to be present and the main ecological interest features of the Docks.
The context of the Site was considered using the UK Government’s Magic website, which allowed the positions of statutory designated sites to be identified and their interest features reviewed. Aerial photographs were studied to establish whether there were semi-natural habitat linkages to these designated areas.
BSG Ecology then undertook an extended Phase 1 habitat survey of the proposed turbine location and surrounding habitats. This allowed the habitats present to be mapped and their potential to support protected fauna to be assessed. During the course of the work a botanical species list was compiled, and the potential of the docks to support estuarine and marine bird species was considered.
Semi-natural habitats around the turbine footprint were dominated by neutral grassland which showed saline influences towards the sea wall. In conjunction with nearby sparsely-vegetated ground, the patchwork of grassland types present corresponded to Open Mosaic Habitats (OMH) of Brownfield Land, a habitat of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in Wales (under Section 42 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, 2006). It was considered that invertebrates including brown-banded carder bee, dingy skipper, small blue and grayling, which are all of conservation priority in Wales and/or the Swansea area were likely to be present based on local knowledge and desk study information.
The potential of the area to support birds other than common passerines was very limited. However, the adjacent Queen’s Dock was noted as being likely to support flocks of roosting gulls and cormorant, and desk study data indicated that ringed plover and lapwing had bred around it (in areas remote from the turbine) and great northern and more occasional black-throated and red-throated divers had used it during previous winters. The area around the turbine was considered to have little potential to support protected species, due to the limited extent of semi-natural habitat and the level of exposure of the area.
The ecological assessment considered the likely effects of development on OMH and on all of the key species identified as a result of the desk study and Phase 1 survey. Empirical data from post construction monitoring of wind farms was used to inform the conclusions of the exercise, which concluded that due to the nature and scale of the proposal effects were likely to be relatively modest. It was recommended that there was a method statement drawn up to avoid killing and injury of reptiles during the construction phase and that habitat management to maintain an open, flower-rich sward around the turbine was completed during the operational phase to benefit invertebrates of particular conservation interest.
Planning permission for the development was initially refused by Swansea City Council, but granted subject to appeal in July 2015.
The next steps will involve working with Infinergy to discharge ecological planning conditions recommended by the Inspector.
This is the sixth single turbine development on which BSG Ecology provided support to Infinergy and which has gone on to be consented. The others being: AJ Recycling (Pembrokeshire), White Lion Farm (Carmarthenshire), Lower Botany Bay (Fenland), West House Farm (Cumbria) and Fox House Farm (Cumbria).