Ecological Governance for Offshore Wind Energy in United Kingdom Waters: Has an Effective Legal Framework Been Established for Preventing Ecologically Harmful Development?

in The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
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The article assesses the United Kingdom’s (uk) legal framework for offshore wind development in light of policy statements of uk Governments that exploitation of this resource should not compromise marine ecosystem functionality. The first part examines the reliance placed on strategic environmental assessment and on permitting for projects to identify and address impacts. It finds that inadequate use has been made of these potentially effective legal tools for preventing ecologically damaging development. The second part considers whether legal requirements for marine spatial planning (Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009) and for improving the condition of Europe’s marine ecosystems (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) bolster the strength of the legal framework for controlling sea uses. It finds encouragement in their holistic approach to regulating the impacts of marine activities, but concludes that they fall short of what would be required to prevent the expansion of the offshore wind sector from causing ecological harm.




Energy Act 2004, Section 84.


Crown Estate Act 1961, Sections 1(3) and 3(1).


European Commission, Implementation of Directive 2001/42 on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment, p. 8, referring to Case C-188/89 Foster and others v British Gas. Available at; accessed 23 October 2015.


Planning Act 2008, Section 104(3).


Planning Act 2008, Section 104(7).


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Section 51. hm Government, uk Marine Policy Statement (The Stationery Office, London, 2011), at pp. 7–9, explains how marine spatial plans will be prepared.


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Schedule 6, Paragraph 9(2)(i).


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Section 58(1).


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Section 58(1).


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Section 58(3).


Crown Estate (n 34); Jay (n 44), at p. 4128.


Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Section 23(2).


Wilson (n 4), at pp. 1389–1393, p. 1395, pp. 1401–1411; Boehlert and Gill (n 5) at pp. 73–4, pp. 76–7.


Ibid., pp. 165–169.


Ibid., pp. 53–67.


Ibid., pp. 74–76, pp. 77–85, 139–145, 175–177.


Ibid., pp. 76–77,177–183. For example, offshore wind farm projects should automatically be required by planning policy to avoid identified types of sites such as cold water reefs and breeding areas for sea birds possessing characteristics to which such development could pose a threat.


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