South Downs National Park friends group, the South Downs Society, today called for a better deal for the Park from energy giant E.ON and their scheme for a huge offshore wind farm.
A public examination by government appointed officials is now under way into the proposals – known as the Rampion wind farm — for nearly 200 giant turbines, out to sea but clearly visible from the Sussex coast. Environmental organisations have generally welcomed the commitment to generate much needed energy from renewable, sustainable sources but fear that the sight of the massed ranks of turbines will seriously detract from the age-old pleasure of looking out to sea, especially from the Sussex Heritage Coast around the Seven Sisters cliffs and Beachy Head.
E.ON have said that they will put all their power transmission cables underground if they are given permission to build the wind farm, but green groups like the South Downs Society are still concerned.
“Of course we’re pleased that the cables would go underground,” says Society chairman, Robert Cheesman, “but, first, we need to be satisfied that the best route has been chosen. It seems that E.ON’s preference for taking the cables through the national park has been made on financial grounds, and that’s not good enough when one of our most treasured landscapes is at stake. And second, the cabling process itself will be a huge operation, meaning major disruption to the landscape, to wildlife and people’s enjoyment.”
The Society has this week submitted its comments to the Examining Panel and has requested the opportunity to address a public hearing on the impact of the proposals on the national park – on the Downs themselves from digging the cable trenches, and on sensitive seaward views.
“The company knows there will be damage. Their own landscape consultants have told them that,” says Robert Cheesman, “and our aim, if they are given the go-ahead, is to compensate for that by seeking the best possible package of environmental and access improvements.”
The examination of the proposals will conclude by January 2014, with a decision from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change expected next summer. If approved, construction is anticipated to begin in 2015 and the wind farm could start generating electricity in 2018/9.