We’ll fight them off the beaches! Fury of D-Day veterans over French plans for a massive windfarm on Normandy coastline
For those who remain, the beaches of Normandy will forever be sacred, echoing with the cries of those young men cut down as they waded ashore to defend our freedom.
Now, 66 years on, the dwindling band of D-Day veterans faces a new battle against an unexpected invader.
A giant offshore windfarm within sight of the beaches where 2,500 allied soldiers died is being planned by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The proposal for 80 525ft high windmills off Juno Beach, one of the five beaches where troops landed in the Second World War, has angered the old soldiers.
Major-General Tony Richardson, 88, president of the Normandy Veterans’ Association, called the French plans ‘horrible’.
‘The D-Day beaches are a historical place and I would like to see them remain unspoilt,’ he said.
Ed Slater, chairman of the organisation, said he would raise the issue at a meeting with the British Legion and Ministry of Defence.
‘I would agree with those who say it seems inappropriate to place them there at a place of sacred memory,’ said Mr Slater, 87, who on June 6, 1944, was serving with the Royal Navy on board an American frigate guarding the eastern approaches to Sword Beach.
‘People looking out to sea from the coast to try to figure out where they were on that day, or where mates were lost at sea, won’t have a clue if there are these things offshore.
‘I do sympathise with the idea of building windmills to generate power but would have thought they’d be better placed out on the moors where the wind is blowing all the time.’
He said he would consider writing to Mr Sarkozy, whom he has met three times, to seek assurances that the windmills would not be built at locations where servicemen were killed.
In all, five windfarms with a total of 600 turbines will be built over the coming decade about seven miles off the western coast of France at a cost of almost £20billion.
France, which relies overwhelmingly on nuclear power stations, aims to be generating up to 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2020.
The French government insists that the turbines put up off the Normandy beaches, on which work is due to start in 2015, will not be visible from the coast.
But this is disputed by critics, who say it will be easy to see them from the shoreline by day and that they will cause light pollution at night.
The British veterans’ misgivings are shared by France’s official association commemorating D-Day and by French ecologists, who fear permanent damage to the character of an area of such powerful resonance on both sides of the Channel.
Admiral Christian Brac de la Perriere, the president of two commemorative bodies, the Comité du Débarquement and Normandie Memoire, said the plans were ‘inappropriate and incoherent’.
He described the proposed development as being at odds with French government hopes for the coastline from Utah Beach to Sword Beach to be named a Unecso world heritage site.
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