Windfarm: Fishermen fear for livelihood

Fishermen were this week left fearful for their livelihoods - just as jubilant land-based businesses were rubbing their hands in anticipation of a financial boost.

Fishermen were this week left fearful for their livelihoods - just as jubilant land-based businesses were rubbing their hands in anticipation of a financial boost.

These were the conflicting reactions to news of the government green light for an 88-turbine offshore windfarm within sight of Sheringham seafront.

Construction could start early next year on the proposed 315-megawatt Sheringham Shoal windfarm, which would be built between 10 and 15 miles off the coast, after it received consent from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

But there are still two major obstacles to be overcome before the windfarm - which would be Britain's fourth-largest offshore installation of its kind, producing enough electricity to power a town of 220,000 homes - becomes a reality.

The Ministry of Defence has serious concerns about the effects it would have on radar at Trimingham.

And, as yet, no final decision has been made by financial backers on whether to stump up the £800m investment needed by developers Scira Offshore Energy.

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Meanwhile, fishing industry leaders have expressed their unhappiness about the plan and have pledged to pursue their concerns.

Ivan Large, from the North Norfolk Fishing Society and Wells and District Inshore Fishermen's Association, said: “They say not much fishing goes on at the site itself, but that's not true.

“And there is also a big worry about the fact they can ban all boats from the site, which means the fishermen who work the other side of the site will have to go round, which will add to their fuel costs and time.”

Mr Large said a previous list of objections had not been adequately answered by Scira and the fishing groups would write again to outline their concerns.

“There are a lot of things left to do,” said Mr Large.

However, on terra firma, business leaders have welcomed the project. They say the local economy has the opportunity to gain from the significant amount of investment which will be created by the building of the wind farm.

Ian Doughty, chairman of the North Norfolk Business Forum, welcomed said: “We have been in close discussions with the developer for many months, and its directors are keen to ensure that the north Norfolk economy gains maximum benefit from this £830m project.

“As well as the offshore work associated with the erection of the turbines, a cable will be laid underground from Weybourne to Salle where the electricity generated by the wind farm will enter the grid.”

Mr Doughty said the forum had been asked by Scira to compile a suppliers' directory containing details of north Norfolk businesses interested in supplying goods and services to the project's main contractors.

Building suppliers, hotels and guest houses, house letting agencies, equipment hire companies and landscape and fencing contractors were among the businesses which will shortly receive a pack of information from the forum asking them if they wish to be included in the directory, said Mr Doughty.

Opportunities were also long term because Scira would need to establish a permanent base to undertake the day to day operational and maintenance activities.

Each of the 88 turbines would produce 3.6 megawatts. Although the permission granted allows for up to 108 turbines to be built, this figure dates back to an initial application and the number will be 88.

“This consent is a major progression for the project and shows that the government is committed to its target of producing 15pc of its energy from renewables by 2020,” said Anne S Lycke, head of wind energy at StatoilHydro and chairman of developers Scira.

Scira Offshore Energy Ltd is 55pc owned by StatoilHydro, which has its headquarters in Norway, and 45pc owned by Dutch company Evelop.