Fears have been raised that one of Yorkshire’s most famous scenes will be blighted by a vast new offshore wind farm being built five miles off the region’s coastline.
The Government’s own environmental advisory body has warned that the magnificent views from Flamborough Head on the east Yorkshire coast will be “impacted” on by the huge Westernmost Rough offshore wind farm, due to be constructed some 20 miles down the coast near Withernsea.
Experts at Natural England have also warned that views from another regional beauty spot, Spurn Head, a natural peninsula in the mouth of the River Humber, could be affected. They have accused the firm behind the wind farm, Dong Energy, of “understating” the visual impact in its planning application to Whitehall.
Work is due to begin on the wind farm in 2013, with about 80 turbines to be constructed just five miles off the coast at Withernsea – each standing up to 550 feet high.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry gave the green light to the development on Tuesday, praising the “fantastic” scheme which he said would help “drive our economic recovery”.
But documents released by the Department of Energy and Climate Chance (DECC) lay bare the concerns of Natural England, who fear the huge turbines will be visible for many miles around.
“Natural England advised the proposed development was of a scale and form to impact on the landscape, character and visual amenity of the Heritage coasts at Flamborough Head and Spurn Head for those people living, working or visiting those areas,” a letter from DECC states.
“Natural England also felt the visual impacts of the wind farm had been understated, and indicated the Secretary of State would need to consider these impacts carefully in taking his decision.”
DECC says Mr Hendry has accepted the wind farm will “inevitably” have a negative visual impact but concluded the role it will play in helping the Government meet its green energy targets means the development must go ahead.
The Government has pledged that 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. The 245MW Westernmost Rough scheme should produce enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.
The DECC letter states: “While the visual impacts are of a scale that will inevitably lead to a degradation of visual amenity for some people, when these are balanced against the contribution to renewable energy targets, they are not of such significance as to require withholding consent.”
Westernmost Rough is one of four wind farms currently planned off the Yorkshire coast.
It is dwarfed in size by the sprawling developments planned at Hornsea and Dogger Bank, but they will both be sited further out to sea and are expected to have little or no visual impact.
“If the Government is going to persist with this policy, it should be putting these turbines well away from our beautiful coast,” said Steve Hey, chairman of the No To Wolds Wind Farms group.
“Flamborough Head is such a fantastic location and it brings in tourists from across the country.”
The eight-mile chalk headland is famous for its stunning clifftop views, picturesque lighthouse and impressive array of birdlife.
Though the wind farm will be sited some 20 miles to the south, the turbines are expected to be clearly visible on the horizon.
Ian Woodhouse, chairman of Flamborough Parish Council, said the parish was never even consulted about the plan.
“We have fought long and hard to keep the heritage coast as naturally beautiful as it is at the moment,” he said. “My personal view is this will be very detrimental.”
However, a spokeswoman for Dong Energy insisted the wind farm will be sufficiently far from the beauty spots that the impact would not be significant.
She said: “We took advice from statutory consultees and followed official guidance on assessing visual impacts. The assessment concluded that effects on Spurn Head and Flamborough Head are limited to indirect visual effects.
“Spurn Head is at least 14km distant from the nearest turbine, and Flamborough Head in excess of 30km.
“At these distances, while the turbines may be visible – depending upon the weather and visibility conditions – any visibility will not constitute a significant effect.”
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