Berwick Bank Offshore Wind Farm, proposed to be located in the outer Firth of Forth, is described by SSE as one of the largest offshore opportunities in the world. While the turbines themselves are often the focus of attention, the onshore infrastructure is of course an essential part of the project.
A compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the onshore land rights needed for Berwick Bank is currently with the DPEA, with an inquiry likely later this year.
This is a good illustration of the critical role which CPOs can play in delivering renewables projects, with compulsory measures often being "twin-tracked" with voluntary negotiations to avoid delay, particularly when a large number of land interests are involved.
For projects like Berwick Bank, the developer will promote the CPO as the holder of a generation licence under the Electricity Act. Such licence holders generally have wide powers of compulsory purchase to acquire land or rights in land for purposes connected with their licensed activities. Neart na Gaoithe, Beatrice and Inch Cape Offshore Wind Farms, to name a few, have all followed a similar path.
Compulsory purchase powers can be just as relevant for onshore schemes, for example securing access routes or substation sites, as well as the transmission infrastructure which is so critical to meeting our net zero ambitions.
Necessary wayleaves under the Electricity Act are also important for the delivery of renewables projects. Similar to CPOs, necessary wayleaves are used to secure land rights for the installation of cables on, under or over third-party land when voluntary agreement cannot be secured. Applications for necessary wayleaves for cable routes to connect to the grid have, for example, been made in relation to Pencloe, Creag Riabhach, Stronach and Chirmorie wind farms, although often the affected landowners will do a deal before a decision is issued, allowing the application to be withdrawn. In these cases, the application is made by the transmission company, again as a licence holder under the Electricity Act.
The public inquiry process for the Berwick Bank CPO is a good reminder of the potential implications of such processes on project programme. Land negotiations should therefore start early, and in most cases will bear fruit. But compulsory measures are often needed to provide the certainty required, and the time involved should not be underestimated.