|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I gather that under Clause 87(3), safety zones can be declared by the Secretary of State, or an applicant may apply to the Secretary of State and he can then choose whether or not to declare a safety zone. If the application is made and the Secretary of State decides not to grant the safety zone and an accident happens within that area, who will be liable? Will it be the applicant for the safety zonethe person who developed the renewable energy installationsor will it be the Secretary of State who decided not to grant a safety zone?
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, at page 73, line 47, the phrase "relevant waters" appears. Given what the Minister said on the previous amendment, I presume that "relevant" means territorial waters. That is what the Minister concerned himself with on the last amendment.
As regards Amendment No. 187, what happens to the right to navigation in waters outside the 12-mile territorial waters but inside the renewable energy zone? That point was not covered. How will the rights of navigation be extinguished to prevent structures being hit in those waters?
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I want to return to the question of fishing vessels. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, in his last couple of interventions left me more confused than when he started. I am no great expert in offshore fishing, but as I understand it one of the common methods of fishing is that the trawler trawls a substantial net behind it hoping to catch the fish. They are then pulled in and hauled up on to the deck. I am not going to get involved in the common fisheries policy or the conservation of marine resourcesboth of which are hugely important subjectsbut I want to know what is the impact of this clause on fishermen coming out from an established fishing port and wanting to fish in what may well be traditional fishing grounds?
As I understood the Minister, he said that the only exclusion zone is several metres broad and covers the pillar on which the turbine sits, and that people are excluded only from the part of the sea which is occupied by each wind turbine standing on its pillar. But then came the question of how big the extension would be after taking into account the safety zones. Looking at this from the point of view of a trawler fisherman, I can tell the noble Lord that there is no way that a fisherman trailing nets perhaps 100 metres or more behind a boat will go anywhere near those places. In fact, he will be excluded from fishing anywhere within an area where many wind turbines are installed. In a sense, that will be the case irrespective of the area of the seathe circle drawn on the chartwhere the individual turbines are located. That is an important point.
Will the declarations made under this clause cover a wider area so that it is perfectly clear where people may not go once the wind farm has been established, or are we playing around with small circles on a chart as the
The Minister seems to be saying that, while the wind farms are being built and once they are established, it is important that there is an area around them from which navigation is excluded, presumably to ensure that the wind farms continue to generate their renewable energy so that we can all keep the lights on. That is the object of the exercise and it will not be helped if fishermen travel too close to the turbines, their nets become tangled and everything must be stopped while they are untangled. I cannot believe that the clause is directed only at the circles on the charts; there must be a significant area around the turbines, such as the safety zone, which my noble friend mentioned during debate on the previous amendment. I believe that this is the opportunity for Ministers to clarify the matter so that we know what the two clauses mean.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am sorry if this is becoming repetitious but it is a fundamental point. I thought that we had reached the point where a wind farm was a wind farm and shipping was excluded. From what he said at the end of the debate on the previous amendment, the Minister seemed to envisage what I can only describe as a dispersed wind farm from which shipping might not be excluded. However, it seems that if there is to be a series of individual points, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding has just enunciated, an even worse hazard for shipping will be created.
It is one thing to have a defined area where one knows that wind turbine generators are spaced at 200, 300 or 400-metre intervals, surrounded by a buffer zone, from which shipping is excluded; it is entirely another to say, "We'll have a turbine generator here and a turbine generator a mile away and another a mile away and navigation can continue through that". From the point of view of those who are to erect these installations, separating the generators to such an extent, with all the additional transmission costs that would be involved in trying to link the turbines, would appear impossible and an idea in which they would not be interested. In sheer practical terms, a wind farm must be just that: it must be as tight and as dense as is sensible and practical. However, that of course makes it a potentially greater hazard to shipping.
If we enter a debate about shipping accessing these areas, how shall we draw the line? It is one thing for a 50-foot shipping vessel to enter the area and pass through it, but will there be a distinction between that vessel, many of the medium-sized freighters which go through the North Sea or even, heaven help us, a supertanker? Heaven forbid that a supertanker should ever get anywhere near such an installation. However, in some sea conditions, who can say what might
However, I do not believe that we can begin to distinguish between one type of ship and another. Either one prevents navigation, including fishing vessels, which seems to be the practical option, or there is a free-for-all. The Minister paid specific attention to the safety issue and said that that would be the driver. If safety is the driver, shipping should be excluded from a wind farm, whether it is a deep-sea or inshore installation or wherever it is. That is the beginning and end of it. At the end of his remarks, the Minister left me very confused as to whether or not that would be the situation. He said that the exclusion zone would be in place only during the construction period. I believe that I am right in saying that. But if that is the case, that will create huge problems in the future.
Lord Greenway: My Lords, I, too, would like to see this uncertainty cleared up because I know that it has been a subject of concern for the yachting authorities. Such people are quite used to sailing close to all kinds of obstructions in the water and they feel that they may be unnecessarily penalised if they are totally excluded from the areas surrounding some wind farms where, I understand, the turbines will be quite far apart. Also, I believe that the height of the turbine blades has been raised so that most yachts can get underneath them.
I also want to confirm the surmisal of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, with regard to trawling. A couple of weeks ago, a meeting took place of the All-Party Parliamentary Maritime Group that was very well attended. If my memory serves me correctly, the fishermen present stated explicitly that they would not trawl within the site of the wind farms because it would be too dangerous.
Lord Donaldson of Lymington: My Lords, perhaps I may reminisce for one moment. I was asked by the previous Administration to conduct an inquiry into the best methods of command and control and state intervention in salvage projects or other situations in which there was a potential for pollution. I had the happy idea that we could adapt the whole of merchant shipping to platforms, which is what we were considering, by simply redefining a ship as including a platform. However, I found at once that that was unacceptable to the DTI, which said, "Oh no. We have our own regime".
The essence of my conclusions, which were accepted by the government of the day and by the present Government, was that one man must be in charge whenever an incident occurs. Not only should one man be in charge but Ministers should keep out. They must either back him or sack him. That was obviously a problem. But as the DTI insisted on having its own
However, the underlying point was that there was no instinct for joined-up government; there was a turf-war elementperhaps not at ministerial level but lower down. I wonder to what extent this legislation has been discussed with the Department for Transport at a level rather lower than ministerial. It is at that lower level that people are aware of the nuts and bolts of the problems.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Higgins asked whether there is a loophole in the Electricity Act and whether it would be possible to prevent a development from taking place if it were not in a suitable place, which would affect our discussions on shipping access. I have one or two questions to ask the Minister.
On the renewables obligation and the way in which the Government are trying to reduce the CO2 emissions, can the Minister indicate how many wind farms and individual wind turbines the Government have in mind? The answer could make a huge difference to our present discussions. If there are to be three pockets, that is one matter, but I suspect from the lobbying that I have received from those who are concerned about productivity on wind farms, that many more will be needed than was originally anticipated. I do not know what evaluation the Government have carried out in advance of presenting the Bill, but I would be interested to know.
On the existing wind farms, were there any difficulties or dissatisfaction when previous Bills were enacted? The Government have an understanding of what has happened already with those wind farms. Returning to my noble friend's original question, was the existing legislation good enough, strong enough and sufficient to undertake what the Government are trying to do under this Bill, or is the previous experience partly the reason for greater clarification in this Bill? I would be grateful if the Minister could answer those questions.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page