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I had a useful and productive meeting with representatives of the shipping, port and marine aggregates industries on
These industries have had an opportunity to make their views known on the Department's plans for offshore wind farming. In November 2002, the Department issued a consultation paper, Future Offshore: A Strategic framework for the offshore wind industry. As a result, the Department decided that the future allocation of leases for sites for offshore wind farms would take place in a structured series of bidding rounds, following a strategic environmental assessment of the defined areas of the sea selected for potential development.
In May 2003 the Department consulted on an environmental report which assessed the impact of wind farm development in three strategic areas—the Greater Wash, outer Thames Estuary and the North West (from North Wales to the Solway Firth)—on a range of matters including maritime navigation. Following this consultation the Department asked The Crown Estate to arrange a bidding round for site leases in these three strategic areas, with the exception of a coastal strip of 8 to 13 kms wide, which was excluded because of the particular sensitivity to development of shallow coastal waters. The Crown Estate announced before Christmas last year that it had offered site leases for 15 wind farms.
The developers of these proposed wind farms must obtain statutory planning consents from Government before they can be built. The Department has already organised one workshop and is planning a series of further meetings to bring together the developers with the main stakeholders, including representatives of the maritime community, who should be consulted in preparing an environmental impact assessment of the project. When a formal planning application for the project is received the Department will consult a range of organisations including those representing shipping and port interests.