Able UK earmarks new land as potential habitat for Humber wildlife
A NEW area of land has been identified by Able UK as a potential habitat for birds which will be displaced from mud flats in the Humber, should its plans for a new Marine Energy Park go ahead.
The suggestion was made at the latest in a series of public hearings on the plans, which are being hosted by the planning inspectorate panel charged with making a recommendation to the Secretary of State as to whether it should go ahead.
As reported, £450-million would be invested in the 300-hectare site at North Killingholme, paving the way for the creation of 4,000 jobs centred on wind turbine manufacture, assembly and installation.
However, as a result, mud flats which are currently home to more than 2,500 black-tailed godwits and other birds, would be destroyed.
It was originally suggested that an area of the North Bank known as Little Humber Farm be given over as "compensation".
However, concerns were raised by a number of parties, including Natural England (NE) and the RSPB, who said they did not believe the site would be suitable for roosting, as it was some distance from proposed new feeding grounds at Cherry Cobb Sands.
At yesterday's meeting, Able spokesman Gregory Jones QC said that instead it now intended to give over a 38.30 hectare site bordering the feeding ground – which lies outside the boundaries of the original planning application.
And, while the broader principles of the plan were welcomed by those at the meeting, Able was criticised for failing to notify them earlier and for not going into sufficient detail about the scheme.
Ned Westaway, a barrister speaking on behalf of Natural England, said: "Much of this information is new – some of it brand new.
"A further and more detailed explanation will be necessary in due course.
"At least as far as yesterday, it was Natural England's understanding that Humber Farm was at least an alternative, but that has now been taken off the table.
"It was on the advice of NE that the roosting area should be as close as possible. It makes it more likely to function as a roost and feed area. That advice has been taken on in terms of location and that is very promising."
Other issues discussed at the meeting were Able's plans to deliberately flood 400 acres of arable farm land at Cherry Cobb Sands, to provide the feeding ground.
The meeting heard that one of Able's biggest concerns had been in ensuring that silt did not build up on the land, transforming it from the desired mud flats to salt marsh.
A spokesman for the firm said it was proposed that an untested scheme be introduced, dividing the land into "cells" – allowing them to isolate to allow maintenance work to take place – and for a Regulated Tidal Exchange programme to be introduced.
Simply put, this would see sluice gates being put in place to control the amount of water flooding the land – and draining away – as the shallower the water is, the less silt can build up.
He said it was hoped the scheme would mean the mud flats would remain in place for 20 years or more before major maintenance works were needed.
However, the firm was unable to say to any degree of certainty that the quality of the mud flats would be to the standard expected by Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation and the RSPB – or provide details of any future maintenance plans.
The hearing continues today at the Humber Royal Hotel, Littlecoates Road, Grimsby, from 10am.