Opposition from the East Coast fishing community is growing over a controversial plan to build a giant wind farm five miles off Spurn Point, near the Humber Estuary.
The £700-million scheme was first unveiled last year, but this week E.ON, the German energy giant behind it all, confirmed its intentions by formally submitting planning applications to East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Department for Business and Enterprise.
The so called Humber Gateway Offshore Wind Farm would consist of around 83 turbines in some of the richest fishing grounds in the North Sea. Supporters says the wind farm is capable of generating enough electricity to power the likes of Grimsby or Hull.
But Nikki Hale, chief executive of the Eastern England Fish Producers, which has members covering an area from Scotland to Essex, said the plan was being viewed with increasing alarm by trawler crews and owners of smaller fishing vessels. She was worried that the plan would adversely affect fishing activity.
She said: “Our members have mixed views about all this. There are going to be a lot of new pylons and we will not be able to fish near them.
“It is likely that we will protest, but we have done so in the past with other developments and the voice of the fishermen just seems to be ignored. The powers that be seem to only want to listen to the NGOs and the other big powerful lobbies these days.”
Nikki said that last year, inshore fishermen from Lincolnshire and Norfolk, to their delight, found some rich new mussel beds in the North Sea off the Skegness area, but now it was being threatened with ruin because a large wind turbine was being stuck in the middle of the fishing grounds, making access extremely difficult.
“In other areas along the East Coast, our members are finding that the noise created for piling these turbines is ruining the flat fish grounds. Fish like skate, soles and rays are all being driven away because of the noise. But I have no doubt that we will wrongly get the blamed for this.”
In Bridlington and Scarborough, fishermen are saying that they have not been asked to take part in a survey about the impact of the wind farm proposal.
Bridlington shell fisherman, Tony Pockley said the area contained some of the best and most sustainable lobster fishing in the whole of Europe and now it was being threatened.
“It’s all well and good asking the people who are living ashore, but it is fishermen who will be the most affected and we weren’t invited to take part,” one lobster fisherman said.
E.ON is inviting people to inspect the planning application at three public exhibitions.
Their project manager, Chris Sherrington said: “We have spent a great deal of time and effort studying how the wind farm would interact with the environment and we feel it is important we talk to the community about the findings of these studies and to hear their views on the project.”
He added: “If built, Humber Gateway would be one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the UK and would play a vital role in the fight against climate change.”
8 April 2008