Support for offshore wind farm

PLANS for one of the world's largest offshore wind farms – just off the Yorkshire coast – have won overwhelming public support.

Alexandra Wood

Developers E.ON say the Humber Gateway wind farm will supply enough green energy to power more than one-and-a-half times the number of homes in Hull.

And although fishermen say the farm will have a "devastating" impact on their livelihoods, the vast majority who have attended public exhibitions are in favour.

About 300 people have attended events at Patrington, Skeffling and Hedon, along the route of a new power cable, and at Cleethorpes – from where the wind farm will be visible.

Of them 90 per cent were supportive, seven per cent "in favour on principle" and just three per cent against, for a variety of reasons, including not liking the way it looks and not believing there was a problem with climate change.

As it happened the first person at a fifth exhibition yesterday at Withernsea – town councillor Kevan Hough – does not believe wind turbines are the answer as they only work about 26 per cent of the time, meaning power stations are still needed as back-up.

He said: "In my opinion wind turbines are not the right way to go. If you listen to people like David Bellamy E.ON would not be building this."

And as far as Steve Cowan, chairman of the Bridlington and Flamborough Fishermen's Society, is concerned there is a simple reason why people are not worried about the farm. "It won't affect their livelihoods," he said.

At least 15 boats to his knowledge work the seemingly remote area, as well as boats from Grimsby, Withernsea and Hornsea. The farm is only eight miles away from another proposed offshore wind development, Westernmost Rough.

He said: "It will be devastating. It's 35 sq km. It's a big area and it's not the only issue: they've applied for a new dredge area and there are two other wind farms."

They also fear the area will end up being closed to fishermen, despite assurances from E.ON.

New Government regulations mean offshore turbines have to have safety zones ; 500m during construction and then 50m during normal operation. E.ON says that should give boats room to operate but Mr Cowan said: "If there's even one accident anywhere on the coast we don't think the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will let us in."

The wind farm, near the mouth of the River Humber and just east of Spurn Point, could have as many as 83 turbines.

E.ON says it will bring huge benefits in terms of the impact on climate change and reducing carbon emissions. A study carried out on behalf of the developer suggests it would not have any impact on coastal erosion, while another survey shows the area affected has a "very low" population of birds.

A geophysical survey of the area revealed the presence of six wrecks, including one thought to be of a wooden ship and a Torn-ado, all of which will be avoided if and when the scheme is built.

The full results of the environmental impact assessment will be published later this year when a planning application is made to the East Riding Council.

If approval is given construction could start in 2010 and the wind farm would become operational by 2012.