STUTTGART, Germany – The beaches of the D-Day invasion have long been places of pilgrimage for veterans of World War II and their surviving family members looking to connect with the bloody sacrifices made along the Normandy shoreline.
Now, it appears that shoreline will soon be in for a change as the French government presses ahead with plans for a large wind farm that critics say will have a horizon-scarring impact on the coastal towns nearby.
“We receive a lot of mail from all over the world. I have letters from families of soldiers who died in these places. They don’t approve. We don’t approve,” said Jean-Louis Butré, chairman of the European Platform Against Windfarms. “It’s very upsetting.”
Butré’s group has launched a petition drive as part of an effort to achieve UNESCO world heritage designation, which in turn would provide the area with special protections. However with construction set to begin as early as 2014, it could be a long-shot as it can take years to win such classification.
In 2011, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed plans for a massive off-shore wind power project, which involves hundreds of turbines up and down France’s coastline. That plan is set to press ahead under new President François Hollande. Along the D-Day beaches, plans call for 75, 150-foot high towers to be built about seven miles offshore.
“If it was 20 kilometers from the coast it would be one thing, but this is 10 kilometers. They flash by night,” Butré said. “It doesn’t belong here.”
Companies involved in the wind farm project say it will provide hundreds of new jobs while also being far enough off shore to respect the landing sites of Normandy’s beaches.
Still, Butré claimed it will infringe on hallowed ground and will permanently alter the landscape of the area. Each June 6, scores of veterans from around the world still descend on Normandy where next year the town will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Meanwhile, some towns in Normandy have been holding public hearings about the project. The next debate is slated for June 12 in the town of Arromanches, one of the landing sites.
But since the wind farm projects have already been approved by Paris, Butré says he has little hope that officials will listen to any public opposition that might be voiced during the meeting.
“They forget the main problem in this (are) the D-Day beach,” he said.