Fisheries leaders have told an organisation proposing to build a wind farm in Lyme Bay: “Don’t be mad.”Bickington-based Jim Portus, (pictured) head of the South West Fish Producers’ Organisation, said the area proposed by Crown Estates is right in the middle of Brixham’s prime fishing grounds.
As much as £20million worth of fish a year is trawled in Lyme Bay, but that business would be in danger if wind turbines got the go-ahead.
The Crown Estate, which owns Britain’s seabeds, has put forward the site as one of three locations in Devon and Cornwall which might be suitable for wind turbines.
Lyme Bay stretches from Start Point to Portland, including many important offshore reefs, and is regularly used by commercial and leisure craft.
The Crown Estate has not announced specific locations within Lyme Bay for the proposed wind turbines, but South Devon leaders have warned such development would be harmful to the area’s wildlife and tourism prospects.
Mr Portus added: “What’s happened at other wind farms is that they’ve drawn exclusion circles around the windmills so trawlers have to go around them.
“If the windmills are in a cluster, then you have a bigger exclusion circle, so if they are built on a fishing ground the fishermen lose out.
“The message is, ‘Don’t be mad. This is prime fishing ground.’ I don’t think windmills are the answer to green issues.
“They cost an awful lot to build and they don’t produce enough energy so you have these things ending up being redundant.
“I would have fundamental concerns about windmills being built in Lyme Bay.”
The next stage of the Crown Estate’s programme to open up the seas would help to treble the amount of wind power in the UK by 2020, bringing the total to 25 gigawatts.
If the Government meets its target of 33 gigawatts produced by offshore wind during the next 12 years, it will provide all the country’s household energy requirements.
Lynne Hookings, chairman of Torbay Tourism Forum, whose home overlooks Lyme Bay, said: “I would have thought the coastline was far too busy with ship activity for these to be built, and then there’s the leisure industry using it.
“From a tourism point of view, they wouldn’t bring any appeal. Nobody thinks wind farms are attractive, although I can understand they may be needed.”
The Crown Estate made its assessment based mainly on sea depths and wind speeds, but it said environmental and economic impacts would be carried out as part of its research.
Gordon Oliver, chairman of Tor Bay Maritime, which attracts watersports events to South Devon, said: “It all depends on where such a farm goes. Lyme Bay is huge, so surely it’s got to be somewhere which isn’t affected by the shipping lanes. They’ve got to take account of the health and safety aspects of trade at sea. Also, there’s the effect on the port of Teignmouth. Careful consideration has to be given to the environmental impact a wind farm would have on that port.
“I suppose there are areas where it might be useful, but there’s a Government report just out saying the cost of building wind farms at sea outweighs the energy savings they produce.
“The whole operation needs to be examined very carefully.”
Each site proposed by Crown Estate will be subject to an environmental assessment carried out by the Government.
If they pass, successful bidders will be given exclusive rights to develop farms.
The Crown Estate is planning to co-fund up to 50 per cent of the costs of getting planning consent. The estate said it was prepared to fund work to speed up wind farm delivery.
Paul Gompertz, director of Devon Wildlife Trust, which spearheaded the Save Lyme Bay Reefs campaign, said he was not overly worried because the conservation areas only constituted about 10 per cent of the bay.
He added: “It’s perfectly conceivable that there would be areas of Lyme Bay where we would have no objections to offshore wind farms.
“We are reassured because they have said the next step is to talk to consultees like us. In principal, we are supportive of any form of renewable energy.”
By Glenn Price
6 June 2008