Jane Lancaster, technical director for offshore planning and environment
What does your role entail?
I manage the offshore planning and environment work. The offshore team has around 25 offshore experts whose expertise covers everything including marine ecology, ornithology, hydrography, fisheries, planning and compliance. The team is split over offices in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France. We work on offshore renewable projects, mainly offshore wind and interconnectors in the in the UK, Ireland and France, as well as projects worldwide.
What does your day typically consist of?
I wake up at 7am, and there is often a text waiting from one of my team, telling me they are off to sea, as we have still been doing boat surveys throughout most of the lockdown. Once up, I wake up my son, make his packed lunch and he’s out the house at 7.45am, and I then walk my daughter to school with the dog. In the days before COVID, I would walk up to a colleague’s house to car share a lift to work. These days, I walk home, grab a cup of tea, and then it’s up to the back bedroom where I have set up office, generally for about for 8.45am.
Our work is quite varied, so there is no particular ‘typical day’. We work through all phases of development, operation and even decommissioning for offshore projects. At any time we have 20-30 projects ongoing. I’m a technical director, so while I have a fair bit of management work to do, I am still very much involved in project work. My background is in marine ecology, particularly fish and fisheries, as well as consenting. I could be doing anything from assessing the consenting risks for a proposed offshore windfarm zone from ecological constraints; joining a call with a client on consenting strategy; talking to a statutory consultee on a scoping document for proposed development; signing off an RAMS or a BIMCO contract for an offshore survey; reviewing or responding to comments on an EIAR chapter; reviewing a commercial fisheries mitigation strategy for a site about to go into construction; or sorting out subcontractors for MMOs to join a vessel for marine mammal mitigation job. It really is a vary varied job! As I manage a team and workstream, my working day (9-5) tends to be filled with team catch ups, internal meetings, internal reporting requirements, such as budgeting and forecasts, as well as general things like staff management, recruitment, marketing, etc. I do try and get out for a walk with the dog at lunch time. When we were in our office a few of us would go for a walk every day. Now I’m at home, I still try and get across the moor for some sunshine.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy working in the renewables sector as my main ambition for as long as I can remember is to try and to save the world from climate change. Hopefully, I might have contributed a little to slowing it down a bit for my kids and future generations. As I started my career as a marine biologist, I still enjoy that element of the work and anything to do with surveys and vessels. I still occasionally get out on an intertidal survey, which is always fun. In the pre-COVID days I used to travel a lot, whether it be to Ireland for a meetings with consultees, the south coast for some fisheries liaison, or even France for an intertidal surveys. I always enjoy travelling to new places, although I don’t miss the 5.25am train to London for same-day client meetings!
How did you get into the role in the first place?
It’s a long story. After leaving university, where I did marine biology, I got a job as a fisheries officer in Cumbria. While working there, there was issue with a shrimp fishery in the Solway Firth, with a lot of new vessels entering a very traditional fishery. Any fisheries management requires information to make decisions, so the sea fisheries committee got a grant from the EU to investigate the fishery, and I got the job as main investigator. This job involved working on the trawlers, collecting samples and doing gear trails, and eventually I used the work I did here as for my PhD. As my work on this project came to an end, plans started to be developed for the Robin Rigg offshore wind farm. My name must have somehow come to the attention of Natural Power as someone who knew about the ecology of the Solway. It became apparent they needed surveys, and I knew plenty of people with boats. So, myself and one of the fishermen I had been working with went into business and set up a survey company. Starting in 2001, we worked for Natural Power as a subcontractor. Eventually, after many years of running my own survey company, I began to crave a job working inside. After a spell as a European marine site officer I got a job with another consultancy (Entec). Around this time there was another surge in offshore wind work, and again Natural Power came to me to work on new offshore sites (this time though Entec). In 2011 Natural Power asked me start up an office in Newcastle and develop our marine services (particularly in benthic and fish). Which I did, and the rest is history.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on and why?
Some of the tidal developments I have worked on: Islay and Fairhead spring to mind. The seabed at the proposed sites for both of these developements was made up of rock that was covered in beautiful anemones, sponges and other marine life, which were fascinating. The surveys for these projects involves visiting remote areas with stunning scenery (Islay, Kintyre and Northern Ireland), so they were very interesting projects to work on.
What is your biggest achievement at work?
Working on the consents for Robin Rigg offshore wind farm and Blyth Demonstrator and them being built and now generating; consenting Inch Cape (twice); and providing the marine mammal mitigation for Rampion for eight months, without any delay in construction, when we had never done this before.
Any hidden talents?
I collect succulents and I must have over a hundred weird looking plants in the house. The other thing would be pets, apart from dogs (we have one at the moment, but often look after others for varying lengths of time) and the tortoises, we keep tropical fish and since being given six stick insects 12 years ago have maintained a population of them ever since!