May 1, 2012

Fears for iconic Bell Rock Lighthouse views if offshore windfarms get go-ahead

By Graeme Bletcher, The Courier, 30 April 2012

The largest renewables project in Scottish history will have a “massive visual impact” on the iconic 200- year-old Bell Rock Lighthouse, it was claimed yesterday.

Plans are in place for three North Sea developments that could see turbines positioned a few miles from the A-listed structure, built by Robert Stevenson in 1811.

At a blade tip height of around 200ft, some of the turbines will dwarf the 110ft Bell Rock, which has featured on postcards and in paintings for two centuries.

Harry Simpson, who chaired the committee that organised last year’s Year of the Light Festival marking the bicentenary of the lighthouse, said the turbines would be clearly visible both from the shore and for tourists taking boat trips.

He added: ”I am not in favour of having them out there and there is no doubt there will be a massive visual impact on the area. I’m not sure it is what people taking photos will want to see.

”I’m not saying I am objecting to renewable energy or backing Donald Trump, but when you look at America you have a lot of them (turbines) rusting away after 25 years.

”Some people like them and some people don’t. Personally I don’t like the look of them. At the end of the day the Scottish Government is backing it and it will go ahead.”

Seagreen Wind Energy is developing the largest of the three windfarms in the Firth of Forth Zone, with the first of three phases set to see up to 150 turbines positioned around 17 miles from the Bell Rock.

The two smaller projects – Inch Cape from Repsol Nuevas Energias and Neart na Gaoithe from Mainstream Renewables – will be positioned around five and seven miles from the lighthouse respectively.

A Historic Scotland spokesman said: ”Consent for these schemes will be applied for under the Electricity Act and will be considered by the Scottish ministers. Historic Scotland has been consulted on these schemes as they all require eEnvironmental impact assessments.

”In the case of these developments we are also expecting the developer to provide information on underwater archaeology and to assess the impact of their development on it. We have advised that the developers of all these schemes should consider the impact of their proposals on the setting of the A-listed lighthouse.”

Local businessman Alex Smith, who co-owns a firm that runs fishing and sight-seeing trips to the Bell Rock, said he is not concerned about the windfarms.

”There is no commercial fishing any more apart from a few creel boats so I wouldn’t say it will be a big problem. There is not going to be any sort of exclusion zone and boats will be able to fish where they please – they can go right up to the turbines. I don’t think it will impact on us.”

David Sweenie, offshore manager Scotland for Mainstream, said Neart na Gaoithe is one of a number of offshore wind projects planned for the North Sea.

He added: ”Neart na Gaoithe, located off the coast of Fife, is currently in the final stages of a three-year process of stakeholder consultation and it is planned to lodge a formal application with the relevant regulatory body, Marine Scotland, in the near future.

”This development will make a valuable contribution to Scotland’s renewable energy targets by producing clean, secure, sustainable electricity.”

Seagreen declined to comment and Repsol Nuevas Energias had not responded to a request for comment.

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