Generations have gazed out to sea along the East Coast and enjoyed the unbroken panoramic vista of where water meets sky.
But this spectacular horizon, punctuated by slow-moving ships and fishing boats, could be lost forever if plans for two massive offshore wind farms get the go-ahead.
Energy giant E.ON has already revealed details of its Humber Gateway project, which could see 83 wind turbines erected off Spurn Point – enough to power 195,000 homes.
And yesterday in Withernsea, the state-owned Danish firm DONG Energy held the first in a series of public exhibitions of its Westermost Rough scheme, a neighbouring wind farm less than nine miles away likely to be visible from anywhere on the coast between Bridlington and Spurn.
The 78 turbines envisaged for this farm could provide enough renewable energy to power 150,000 homes when hooked up to the National Grid.
But while most people welcomed such a “green” energy boost yesterday, there were mixed opinions over the project’s impact on the seascape.
Paul Lynas, of Trinity Fields, Withernsea, thought it would be good for tourism.
The 61-year-old retired engineer said: “I’m all for it. This area used to be full of windmills and they did a lot of damage; these won’t. It doesn’t make any difference to me that you will see them. It will make people want to come to see them.”
Sheffield couple Steve and Jane Varley, who were enjoying a stroll along the promenade on their first visit to the resort, did not welcome the prospect of the 492ft turbines appearing five miles from the coast.
Mr Varley said: “It’s the first time we’ve been and it’s a gorgeous view, you couldn’t wish for any better. It would spoil it if they put a wind farm out there.”
Pete Wilkinson, whose Promenade home overlooks Withernsea beach, said he would tolerate the turbines if they were solely for the benefit of the town.
He said: “There’s a gas rig 14 miles out and you can see that. It’s a shame for the view but we don’t have a lot of options. If it was for Withernsea then fair enough, if we were going to get cheap electricity.”
Kurt Jensen, environmental manager at DONG, said the turbines would be visible but could play a key role in weaning the country off fossil fuels.
He said: “We are not trying to give the impression that it would be more beautiful than it is, but there would probably be fewer turbines than you can see (at the exhibition) now. We’ve taken the worst case.”
He added: “It’s renewable and it helps with carbon dioxide production. Even if you don’t believe the CO2 theory, there’s nothing wrong with trying to save the oil and gas which we know is not here for eternity.”
The company is expected to seek planning permission for the scheme in autumn 2009. If approved, the farm could become operational by 2014, Mr Jensen said.
East Coast fishermen have voiced concerns over access to the fertile shellfishing grounds in the area where the turbines would be placed.
The company said they would be able to travel between the turbines, but not within 164ft of them. Fishermen’s representatives fear the Government may impose a blanket exclusion zone if any safety issues arise.
Mr Jensen has said fishermen affected by the scheme would be compensated for losses suffered during the site’s construction.
The firm is holding other exhibitions, today at Hornsea Floral Hall and tomorrow at Bridlington Spa. Both will be open from noon to 7pm.
By Simon Bristow
11 June 2008
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