A proposal to remove a vital piece of environmental protection is causing serious concern over the future of such regulations in the UK.

If the Development Consent Order (DCO) issued for the construction of the Hinkley Point C power station is contradicted, the regulatory position of the entire development would be called into question, as would DCOs issued to other major infrastructure projects.

Under the DCO, an acoustic deterrent is required to help protect fish populations.

This deterrent will work alongside a low velocity intake, which helps fish escape before they reach the intake, and a fish recovery system, which aids the more robust species in returning to the water after passing through.

But alongside the regulatory implications, the proposed removal of the acoustic fish deterrent (AFD) could mean millions of fish do not detect or avoid the intakes until it is too late.

Preparing for lasting uncertainty

David Lambert, Scientist and Managing Director of Fish Guidance Systems, warns that AFDs are standard practice in the UK and removing its requirement could set an unhealthy precedent for environmental protections in future large infrastructure projects.

“The situation is complicated further by ongoing changes wrought by climate change,” he recently told Forbes. “The provision of an AFD as required under the existing DCO is to mitigate the uncertainty over these impacts, which will perpetuate through the 60-year lifespan of the plant.”

David also noted that the consultation over the application to remove the AFD requirement elicited more than 100 responses from conservation bodies and individuals, but FGS are not aware of a single one that agreed with its removal.

Responsibility for the decision over the removal of this important piece of environmental protection falls to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma and that decision is due imminently.

With the AFD in place, Hinkley Point C will provide power to millions of homes without risking unsustainable damage to fish stocks in one of the UK’s most important areas of conservation.

Without it, the effectiveness of each of the other fish protection strategy measures would be compromised, as might measures put in place by future DCOs.

FGS press release