A massive offshore wind farm project will be scaled back following a critical public reaction, it has emerged.
The Atlantic Array project, located in the Bristol Channel between South Wales and North Devon, is to be downsized by a third.
The £3 billion scheme is expected to provide energy for up to a million homes when it becomes fully operational within the next decade.
Amid a growing backlash, RWE npower renewables, the contractor, confirmed that the scheme’s physical size would be cut from a maximum of 417 turbines to 278.
While the decision was praised by environmentalists, local campaigners accused the firm of making token gestures.
It follows a landmark High Court ruling, which stated that the Coalition’s renewable energy targets did not outweigh value of the beauty of the English countryside.
Mrs Justice Lang made the comments after rejecting planning permission for a wind farm, near Gt Yarmouth, on the edge of Norfolk Broads.
She ruled plans for four 328ft (100m) turbines in Hemsby would harm the natural landscape.
It also comes amid a growing backlash against the schemes, with legal experts calling the ruling a significant test case for planning rules introduced in March.
They say that it that could help more than 300 local groups currently fighting wind farm proposals across the country.
Atlantic Array is one of more than a dozen UK offshore wind farms earmarked for construction within the next decade as the Government seeks to meet ambitious targets for generating clean energy.
The reduction in turbines and the wind farm area has moved the project out of a location towards the north west of the site, which had been found to be used by a relatively higher number of birds and marine life, as well as by fishing vessels.
On Thursday night, Robert Thornhill, the development manager for Atlantic Array, said no decision had been made on the precise number of turbines, or their individual output although sizes of turbine had not changed.
But he added: “We have, however, reduced the maximum number of turbines for which we will apply for planning consent, from 417 to 278, following responses to our public consultation and our environmental and engineering studies to date.
“We will apply for planning consent to build Atlantic Array with up to 1500mw capacity but have significantly reduced the horizontal view of the wind farm from the closest points.
“We have also reduced the wind farm site area by almost one-third from 414 sq km to 238 sq km.”
The firm is hoping for permission to build at the beginning of 2014, and connection to the National Grid by October 2016, with further phased connection dates through to 2019.
Environmental campaigners praised the Atlantic Array developers for considering local concerns about the potential size and spread of the turbines, which, at their tallest, could stand 722ft (220m) above sea level.
But members of a North Devon campaign group accused the developers of making token alterations to the plans, following two public consultations.
“This announcement is a ploy to make it look as though the developers have bowed to public opinion,” said spokesman for the Slay the Array group.
“In fact, they have not reduced the size of the development at all. Like the ‘extra’ consultation, this is part of a carefully choreographed PR campaign.”
The Coalition is obliged to boost the amount of energy from renewables as part of climate change targets imposed by Europe.
This will mean more than doubling the amount of energy from onshore wind over the next ten years and building at least another 5,000 wind turbines onshore.
Britain already has more than 3,500 turbines onshore and offshore and 800 more will be completed this year alone. By 2020, the industry hope to have built around 10,000 in total onshore alone in order to meet Government targets.
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