Environmental campaigners fear Mont St Michel could have its status as a Unesco world heritage site revoked if plans to build a group of wind turbines nearby continue.
Alternative energy firm Epuron has planning permission to construct three turbines near Argouges (Manche), about 15km up the Couesnon river from the mount. The turbines would be 99 metres high and would produce a total capacity of 6.6 megawatts.
The project is one of 11 different applications to build turbines in the area that have been lodged with local authorities near the bay of Mont St Michel recently. Three bids in the neighbouring Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, have been turned down because of their proximity to the site, but others remain under consideration.
World cultural body Unesco says it is “preoccupied by the turbines’ potential impact on the landscape” and has given France until this month to submit a detailed report assessing the risks and detailing any other plans to build turbines
in the area.
The Fédération Environnement Durable (Fed), one of the main campaign groups against the wind turbine project, said there was a real risk that Mont St Michel could be declassified if the views in the bay were blighted.
Fed president Jean-Louis Butré said building the structures so close to the monument was about as appropriate as opening “a late-night discothèque” on the site.
“Even though they are 15km away, you will be able to see them, especially at night, with their flashing lights,” he said.
He said the government had previously committed not to allow any turbines in the bay, but appeared to have bowed under “enormous industrial pressure”.
A legal bid by local associations to cancel the building permit was turned down by a court in Caen. The campaigners also had their appeal thrown out. They had planned to take it one step further, to the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest legal authority, but the group pulled out on advice from their lawyers.
Epuron, which applied for the planning permission in 2007, insists the turbines are “small and take into account the unique location and the relative proximity to Mont St Michel”.
Basse-Normandie president Laurent Beauvais says he is “annoyed” that the syndicat mixte, which runs the momument, was not consulted before the planning permission was granted.
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