September 1, 2012

More work needed to assess impact of offshore wind farm

Western Morning News | 1 September 2012

Devon County Council has called for more work to be done to assess the impact of hundreds of wind turbines proposed off the coast.

The authority has demanded a more detailed exploration of the effect of the Atlantic Array Offshore Windfarm on areas which are crucial to the Westcountry economy, particularly traffic, the landscape, tourism and fishing.

The applicant, RWE Renewables, has already slashed its initial proposal to build 417 turbines in the Bristol Channel, 8.5 miles off the North Devon coast to between 188 and 278 after an outcry about the impact on the environment and tourism.

But on Wednesday, Devon County Council’s (DCC) development management committee will consider its response to environmental aspects of the proposal to the Planning Inspectorate.

One of the greatest concerns highlighted in the council’s response to a pre-application consultation is the impact of extra lorries on the roads during the construction phase.

The council has called for a number of measures to combat congestion, including instructions on which roads lorry drivers should use and possible restrictions on movements in certain areas.

The initial development would involve specialised deep drilling to lay underground cables on a route near Westward Ho! and Bideford, passing under the River Torridge, the A39 and the Tarka Trail.

If permission is passed, work could commence on onshore elements in 2016, with offshore construction the following year.

In its draft response, DCC says the largest impact of the onshore development phase would be the number of lorry movements around Bideford, with more than 120 additional lorries on the roads each day.

The report urges vehicles to use the A39, rather than more minor roads. And it says some restrictions may be needed to avoid unacceptable congestion around Bideford Quay.

The report says it is “vital” the impact on Devon’s landscape is properly assessed and presented to the Planning Inspectorate, after the environmental assessment concluded that it will have “significant adverse landscape and visual impacts” on Lundy Island and the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It calls for clarification on evidence that any impact on tourism would be “neutral or positive”.

The report warns: “Significant concerns have been raised locally regarding the potential impacts of the proposed Atlantic Array on the tourism industry. The size of the industry in North Devon and Torridge must not be underestimated. Should any negative impacts be felt locally they are likely to have a profound economic effect.”

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