Dundee civic and military figures have called on French authorities to treat sensitively a plan to build a windfarm on a First World War battlefield of deep significance to the city.
A company has applied to install 10 turbines on the site of the 1915 Battle of Loos, where tens of thousands of young British soldiers died.
The memorial on Dundee Law is lit every year on September 25 to commemorate the many Black Watch soldiers from the Dundee area who fought in the first major British offensive of the conflict.
The 4th Battalion (Dundee) of The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) had 330 of its 420 men killed or wounded in the joint onslaught with the Indian Corps, which also suffered heavy casualties.
Every Scottish regiment was at Loos and 50% of Britain’s troops in the assault – about 50,000 men – were from Scotland.
Vast swathes of the Northern French and Belgian countryside were fought over during the Great War and plans for any development of the many battlefield sites have needed careful consideration.
The proposal by the French company InnoVent to put up 10 turbines, each twice the height of Big Ben, on the Loos battlefield has upset Leicester Regiment historian Richard Lane.
He said the scheme would ruin the setting of a number of war cemeteries in the area and he believed the people behind it may be acting out of ignorance.
Bob Allan, chairman of the regiment’s Royal Tigers Association, said: “We would oppose anything that would impinge on the tranquility and setting of the cemeteries in the area of the battlefield.”
French conservationist Bruno Schmit said in a blog that InnoVent had “taken no account of the historical past of the site”.
The plan has been put on hold following a public meeting and the final decision lies with the prefect of the department of Nord Pas de Calais.
InnoVent spokesman Clement Prouvost said the firm was aware of the sensitive nature of the locality and was looking at the suitability of sites.
“We don’t know where exactly the turbines will be built and the numbers of turbines,” he said.
“We have decided to keep a distance of 500 metres minimum between turbines and cemeteries.”
Major Ronnie Proctor, secretary of the Black Watch Association, said: “This is in the French countryside and I do not think that we can say what should and shouldn’t be built there as that is for the French to decide.
“People should be mindful, however, that young men gave their lives for our freedom in World War One, especially as 1914 is the centenary of the start of that war, and I think this plan should be thought through very carefully.”
Dundee Lord Provost Bob Duncan said: “Many sons of Dundee and the surrounding area were lost in the battlefield at Loos, and if there is to be any development there I would hope it would be dealt with sensitively.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding