Offshore wind farms could be blocked from connecting to the national grid after the energy regulator said developers did not have the right to force their way on to people’s land.
The regulator’s announcement is a victory for landowners who object to their land being dug up to lay cables from the coast to the national grid.
RWE, a German utilities company, is planning to erect 288 turbines 20 miles off the coast of Lincolnshire, had asked several landowners in Lincolnshire for permission to conduct surveys on their land to assess its suitability for cables, a substation and other works to convey power from the turbines to the grid. When five landowners objected, RWE applied to Ofgem for consent to exercise what it claimed was its right, under the Electricity Act 1989, to enter the land without the owners’ permission.
The landowners are concerned that the digging of trenches and laying of access roads would damage drainage systems in low-lying land, increasing the risk of flooding. They also claim that their fields could be permanently devalued by having cables under them and inspection areas every 750 metres.
Ofgem has now written to RWE and the landowners saying that it is “minded to refuse consent” because the act only grants a right of access to construct or extend a generating station. It said that laying cables onshore could not be deemed an extension of a wind farm located offshore.
Ofgem is required to hear the views of RWE and other parties before announcing its final decision.
John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation
Melvin Grosvenor, spokesman for a group of landowners objecting to the 40-mile cable route from Anderby Creek via Skegness to Bicker Fen, said that RWE had tried to bully them into granting permission by making it clear that if they did not it would seek to force its way onto their land. “This is a victory for the little people who refused to give in to serious bullying tactics.” He added that RWE could connect the turbines to the grid by an alternative route that would be much less disruptive.
Jacob Hain, RWE project manager for the proposed wind farm off Lincolnshire, said: “We will continue to work closely with landowners and local communities as the project develops.”
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