Ongoing work to build what will be the single largest wind farm in the world off the north Norfolk coast has been blamed for “destroying” one of the region’s rivers.
Works on the Hornsea Three offshore wind farm project began earlier this year, carving a 33 mile long and 262ft wide trench through the north Norfolk countryside as part of a major cable route.
It will connect up to 231 turbines – with the potential to power three million homes – to the National Grid at the Norwich main 400-kilovolt substation, between Swardeston and Stoke Holy Cross.
But environmental experts and locals have accused Orsted – the Danish state-owned company behind the £8bn project – of ruining a Norfolk river in the name of creating green energy by polluting it with tonnes of sediment known as silt.
The River Glaven is a 10 mile long river that flows from Selbrigg Pond, near Holt, out into the sea at Blakeney Point.
Professor Carl Sayer, a freshwater scientist and member of The River Glaven Conservation Group, has said that soil dug-up to create the trenches for the cable route has been carried by surface run-off in recent heavy rain and deposited into the river.
Mr Sayer, who grew up in Bodham and has fond memories of fishing on the Glaven, said the river has become clogged up by silt, which has caused an “ecological disaster”.
“This is a massive pollution event,” Mr Sayer said.
“It will take decades to recover from this as there’s so much sediment to pass through the river.
“It’s terrible and shocking. I’m broken by it.”
Rare species such as the white-clawed crayfish, which are found in freshwater chalk streams, and brown trout could suffer because of the pollution.
Henry Crawley, chair of the River Glaven Conservation Group, said he, alongside the Norfolk Rivers Trust, first warned Orsted and the Environment Agency about the prospect of pollution from the wind farm works in August.
“We were reassured us they had it all under control,” Mr Crawley said.
“They’ve done this work at a time of high risk because we get a lot of heavy rain this time of year and farmer’s fields are bare.
“It’s contributed significantly to the problem and it will take years to recover.
“It’s real tragedy and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Kate Dickson, who owns Thornage water mill on the River Glaven, said the river has been “absolutely ruined” and is now “unrecognisable”.
“I’m desperately upset because where I live is ruined,” she said.
“It has completely devastated the river.
“It has killed anything that lives on the bottom, because sediment chokes life at the bottom of the stream. It sits there like a big layer of doom.
“The river looks like a builder’s tea. It used to be crystal clear and you could see the trout. Now it’s filthy.
“I feel they [Orsted] are responsible for a hell of a lot of damage done.
“We told them and they chose to ignore it.”
A spokesperson for Ørsted said: “Recent extreme weather, including Storm Babet, has caused widespread disruption across the region.
“We are aware that there are pre-existing flooding issues locally with a number of contributing factors.
“As a responsible developer, we take potential impacts of any works we carry out very seriously.
“We are working closely with our contractors, the Environment Agency and other local stakeholders to thoroughly investigate the events and are taking active steps to ensure that mitigation measures in place on our site can handle extreme weather.”
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