Quality mark: From consent to construction
Derek Duckett of Xodus Group gives six top tips to smoothly transition from consent into construction.
There is a hive of activity presently taking place around the upcoming Crown Estate offshore wind leasing rounds throughout the UK, but we should not forget all the good work being undertaken with the projects already in development. In the UK, there is a growing list of offshore wind projects that are either in the early stages of, or working towards, construction and installation. This phase of a project brings with it a different set of tasks and challenges to those encountered during the pre-bid and consenting phases of a project.
Here are six tips to help projects successfully navigate this often-complex path:
- Changes to the project design – Ensure your project has a formal design change process, which includes consideration of consenting issues. This will allow identification of any consent implications at the earliest opportunity, including any need for consent variation. Such requirements need to be built into the overall project budget and schedule to avoid showstoppers.
- Post consent permits and licences – Generate a permits and licences register and use it to track progress of the applications required, key dates for submission and approval, as well as the relevant authorities that deal with each permit or licence, taking into account regulator review and public consultation periods in the project schedule. Such a register should be kept live, reviewed and updated on a regular basis, and be readily accessible to the key members of the project team.
- Managing consent conditions – The management of multi-organisation responsibilities for consent condition compliance is a challenge for every developer. Ensure a suitably resourced post consent and environmental management team who can work out the finer points of condition responsibilities and enshrine an agreement of expectations from all parties involved. For developers, and depending on the scale of the project, a team consisting of a consents manager, an ecological clerk of works (ECoW) who provides advice about ecological and environmental issues during the construction of a development, and an environmental manager supported by project health, safety and environment and engineering teams is recommended to help manage post-consent requirements.
- Contractual arrangements – A consents schedule should be an integral part of all contracts with principal contractors and is the key mechanism by which a developer can ensure a project is in compliance with all consent conditions. Principal project contractors are then obligated to cascade relevant conditions to each of their subcontractors through their own contractual processes.
- Environmental management documentation – These documents together with the contract schedule provide an agreed method of working throughout the project’s life. This documentation will inevitably need to be periodically reviewed to take into account any project or schedule changes. Project specific environmental management plans, which take into account individual project specifications and requirements, help to clarify project expectations at the start of a project and can aid resolution of any subsequent disagreements later in the project.
- Training and awareness – Once all environmental management and other consent plans have been agreed, communication of their requirements is needed. This should start with those with specific responsibilities being put through specific project training and/or awareness courses. Those with more general responsibilities should be communicated with through a formal project induction. Specific topics can also be addressed through tool box talks (an informal safety meeting that focuses on specific topics relating to a particular project or task). Lessons learned presentations also provide a good opportunity for training and passing knowledge throughout the workforce.
Much of the above may seem like common sense, however it is the way it is implemented that will help a project successfully comply with its consent conditions, while at the same time reducing the risk of environmental, schedule and financial damages. Early engagement with experienced post-consent and environmental specialists is recommended to assist the management of the post-consents burden for offshore renewables projects.
Derek Duckett is a principal environmental consultant in the EIA Team at Xodus Group, Glasgow