Pressure is growing on the French government to call off plans for an offshore wind farm that critics say will ‘desecrate’ the D-Day beaches.
British veterans, gathering in northern France today for the 67th anniversary of the Normandy landings, have spoken out against the proposals.
The scheme, announced earlier this year by President Nicolas Sarkozy, would see at least 80 525ft generators placed less than ten miles off the landing beaches.
David Churchcroft, a former infantryman who stormed ashore with the British 2nd Army on June 6 1944, said: ‘It will change the entire seascape, destroying a view which evokes memories of the most astonishing invasion in military history.
‘This is sacred ground, and the French should not be allowed to alter its character.
‘These beaches are designed to preserve the memory of those who fought for freedom. They should not be desecrated.’
But Laurent Beauvais, Socialist president of the lower Normandy regional council, has even said he ‘rejoiced’ at the plan, claiming it would have ‘no impact on fishing or tourism’.
The Normandy wind farm is not due to be built until 2015, so plans are still at a relatively early stage.
However, it is likely that the generators will be visible on the horizon looking out from Juno Beach, the code name for one of five sectors of the Allied invasion.
Juno was the target of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division supported by British Royal Marine Commandoes.
Admiral Christian Brac de la Perriere, president of the Comité du Débarquement, the official French body tasked with commemorating D-Day, agreed that the plan was ‘incoherent’, adding: ‘They want to put these generators at the centre of the landing areas.’
And Dominic Metter, who coordinates opposition to unsightly wind farms across Europe said: ‘With no exception our organisations regard this as an invasion of sacred ground where so many warriors gave their lives.’
Some members of the lower Normandy regional council have even resurrected a campaign to get the D-Day landing beaches classified as a Unesco world heritage site -something which could prevent the wind farm being built.
Among those backing the plan are veteran French politician Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and the first elected president of the European parliament.
At present, thousands of tourists who visit the Normandy battlefields can get a very good idea of how the coastline looked during the Second World War.
Many of the original gun emplacements and pill boxes are still in place, as well as part of the so-called ‘Mulberry Harbour’ built by British engineers off the seaside town of Arromanches.
Now up to 80 of the wind farm generators could appear on the maritime horizon, spoiling the historic view and bringing further problems including light pollution blowing inland.
At present France has no large offshore wind farms, but wants to catch up with Britain and Germany by the end of this decade.
Mr Sarkozy said up to £10million will be spent on building five groups of generators from 2015, all of which will generate as much electricity as two nuclear power stations.
Two will be on the Normandy coast, with one directly off the D-Day beaches.
A French government spokesman said that plans for the wind farms were being handled with ‘the greatest sensitivity’, and that the impact on the view from Normandy’s wartime beachhead would be ‘limited’.
The spokesman said Mr Sarkozy was also sympathetic to seeing the area become a World Heritage site, saying this could even happen in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014.
D-Day commemorations will be held across Normandy tomorrow, as people remember the campaign which heralded the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the war.
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