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Rare birds fear over offshore windfarm

PUBLISHED: 10:57 12 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 07 July 2010

Natural England has opposed plans for a giant windfarm in the sea off Wells and raised a catalogue of concerns about the impact it could have on wildlife and nature conservation.

NATURAL England has opposed plans for a giant windfarm in the sea off Wells and raised a catalogue of concerns about the impact it could have on wildlife and nature conservation.

In a letter to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), a call has been made for more research into the impact the proposed windfarm would have on a population of rare birds, possible injury to seals and other wildlife during construction and the damage cables could do to coral reef and habitats in the Wash.

Although opposed to the current plans, which could see up to 160 turbines built along the coast from Wells to Brancaster, the agency said it would work with DECC and Centrica to "develop a robust mitigation package".

Under current proposals, Natural England believes there could be a "significant risk" that sandwich terns, which breed on the reserves at Scolt Head and Blakeney Point, could collide with the turbines.

The RSPB also announced it would be opposing the proposals as it did not have enough information about the impact on sandwich terns.

Outlining concerns about the problems which could be caused for wildlife during the windfarm's construction, Lou Burton, Natural England's marine renewables adviser, said: "We believe that marine mammals and fish are at significant risk of injury and disturbance by being in close proximity to the turbine foundations at construction or by being exposed to the sound pressure waves under the sea created during construction."

She added that the adverse effects on harbour and grey seals needed to be addressed.

The agency outlined concerns that the turbines' cables were likely to have a significant effect on the coral reef and habitats in the Wash.

Rhys Jones, spokesman for Centrica, said: "We welcome Natural England's construct-ive approach. Centrica believes its project can deliver real benefits, helping to address the need to reduce carbon emissions and issues around security of supply as Britain becomes increasingly dependent on energy imports, but acknowledges the need to develop such renewable assets responsibly."

Erica Howe, spokesman for the RSPB, said: The information supplied in relation to the Docking Shoal offshore windfarm is not sufficient for us to assess the impact of the proposal on sandwich terns which breed at Scolt Head and Blakeney Point and feed offshore. We have had to object to the proposal and we are working closely with the developers, Centrica, to discuss possible mitigation options.

"In the light of these discussions we will consider amending our position."

Last month, a West Norfolk Council report on the wind-farm said it would have an "unacceptable impact" on the character of Norfolk's coastline.

Henry Bellingham, MP for North-West Norfolk said: "I hope Centrica will look at Natural England's concerns.

"But I think we've got to be realistic. If this application for these 160 turbines was onshore then it wouldn't be possible.

"The only way we can convincingly argue there is no place in Norfolk for onshore windfarms is to have offshore turbines."

A decision on the turbines will be made by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband as the windfarm has a capacity of more than 100 megawatts.


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