The Lake District attracts more than 17 million visitors, one million overnight stays and tourist spending in excess of £34m a year.
Its lure to tourists is well known – hills, dales, lakes and attractions that range from Beatrix Potter to owl sanctuaries, and traditional Lakeland shows to restored miniature steam railways.
But now, if the West Cumbria branch of Friends of the Earth have their way, visitors will be heading to this particular green and pleasant corner of England to gawp at . . . wind farms.
The 22-storey high concrete structures have been savaged by television environmentalist and botanist David Bellamy, who once famously said: “If I wanted to build in an area of outstanding natural beauty I wouldn’t be allowed.
“Yet these turbines are put on hills where everyone can see them. They need 1,000 tonnes of concrete and a road infrastructure. It beggars belief that some environmental groups say they are ‘green’.”
Well, Friends claim they are indeed green, and have even launched a new guide to all the turbines that can be seen from the Cumbria coastal railway line in an attempt to promote “turbine tourism”.
The guide is designed to give tourists and local users of the railway line “a different perspective on the turbines in the hope people will see them as striking and beautiful additions to the Cumbrian landscape”. The guide is being distributed on Northern Rail’s Carlisle to Barrow line and will be available in most stations.
Jill Perry, local energy and climate campaigner with West Cumbria Friends of the Earth and co-author of the leaflet, said: “The 10 windfarms of the Carlisle-Barrow railway make the Cumbrian coast the green powerhouse of the UK.
“We wanted to celebrate this – that’s why we produced the guide. It highlights both the beauty of the turbines set against the Cumbrian landscape and their important role in fighting climate change.
“There is a great variety of turbines to be seen, ranging from a small domestic one to two huge 2MW turbines at a Workington factory.
“It’s a fantastic journey by rail to see them all turning in the wind.”
The 10 wind farms visible along the route of the “Turbine Express” include the Haverigg and Kirkby Moor sites and Lowca, which stands on the cliff above the railway.
The Kirkby and Haverigg farms are in view several times from different perspectives as the railway follows the twists and turns of the coastline.
The 12 turbines of the Kirkby Moor wind farm began operation in 1993 with, so it was said, 82 per cent of locals supporting the development in the area.
Haverigg I was commissioned a year earlier, consisting of five 225kW V27 wind turbines on the disused airfield. The second phase (Haverigg II), initially developed by Windcluster, was purchased by The Wind Co UK Ltd and The Wind Fund, who went on to construct the four new Wind World turbines, each rated at 600kW.
Both sites will get honourable mentions in the Friends’ guide, although some leafing through the same publication may look twice at the claim that Workington is one of the greenest towns in the country in terms of electricity generation.
Turbines there generate enough electricity for 10,000 households – equivalent to every house in the town.
West Cumbria Friends of the Earth say that number is set to increase to provide power for surrounding villages, including Seaton, as planning consent has been granted for seven more turbines.
The existing turbines along the railway line provide enough electricity to supply three towns the size of Whitehaven. This figure is expected to grow, with more projects in the pipeline.
One such development is Robin Rigg – with the construction of one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms beginning in the Solway Firth next month.
Vessels will begin to install 40 to 50m steel tubes into which 60 giant turbines will fit.
This work is expected to be finished by the end of the year, weather permitting.
E.On UK Renewables, the firm behind the £325m project, will be based at the Port of Workington from early next year to complete the construction and will maintain the wind farm for the next 25 years.
The turbines there will rise 410ft above sea level.
Maybe Friends of the Earth and Cumbria Tourist Board could look at the possibility of “turbine sea cruises” next.
11 July 2007
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