Extensive environmental scoping and habitat surveys were undertaken to find out the full range of ecological interest on the site. The scope of the environmental impact assessment was agreed as part of the formal environmental scoping exercise conducted with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which started in October 2009.
The environmental impact assessment has now been completed to determine any potential impact that the wind farm, including its construction and operation, may have on the local ecology.
Extensive bird surveys have been completed to identify all the species that live on or visit the site. The behavioural patterns of the birds were also recorded to assess the likely impact of the proposed scheme. The surveys were used to calculate the potential risk of birds colliding with the wind turbines. These collision risk assessments found that, after modifications to the scheme, the risk of bird strike is on average less than 1% across most bird species.
This predicted level of risk is deemed to fall within accepted limits according to current guidance. Peel will continue to monitor the use of the site by birds, and to consult with Natural England and the RSPB, throughout the summer of 2010 to ensure that what was observed last year is typical bird behaviour. The new results will be made available to the public and the council in mid-2010.
Detailed ecological surveys have enabled the team to assess the needs of a range of species found on the site, including water voles, badgers and bats, with the aim of ensuring that they experience minimal disturbance during construction and operation of the wind farm.
In accordance with advice from Natural England, several additional surveys will be conducted between March and June 2010, and then submitted shortly after for consideration as an addendum to the planning application.
Creating approximately 20 hectares of improved habitat will mitigate any alterations in the habitats on the site caused by new access tracks and the wind turbines. This superior habitat will include reed beds, ponds, an island, scrub and grassland to support a range of species, and will be managed for the life of the wind farm.
A detailed habitat creation and management plan will be produced and would be agreed with the statutory consultees in advance of construction commencing.