Wells hopes for windfall from Race Bank wind farm

Robert Smith on Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Robert Smith on Wells Quay. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Wells is well positioned to reap the benefits from a multimillion pound wind farm, according to harbour bosses as a bid is made for an energy giant to operate from the area.

Danish offshore windpower firm Dong Energy UK is progressing plans for the Race Bank wind farm nine miles off Wells.

It is hoped that the firm, considered to be the leading offshore wind company in Europe, will have an operational base at Egmere and vessels working from the port in Wells, bringing a major boost to the town and surrounding area's economy.

Company officials have already visited the port and are set to revisit in a couple of weeks.

No decision has yet been made - but Wells harbourmaster Robert Smith said they were doing everything they can to attract the business.

He said: 'We are trying to encourage the renewable energy sector to come to Wells. The Race Bank is only nine miles north of Wells while the competition, Grimsby, is 40 miles away.

'Our seascape is going to change while Grimsby's isn't so we feel we should have the benefits from the windfarm. We know the economic benefits it can bring and the amount of jobs.

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'With Sheringham Shoal wind farm, we always knew there would be benefits but it even helped things like the taxi firms, butchers, green grocers, even in the town of Wells there was an impact.'

Dong acquired the Race Bank wind farm in a £50million takeover deal last year. The move came as Wells' economy missed out on millions of pounds after Dudgeon Offshore Wind Ltd decided to set up in Great Yarmouth despite its wind farm being built just 20 miles off the north Norfolk coast.

Mr Smith said: 'Wells is a tourist destination but that's seasonal and it's lowly-paid seasonal work. We want to encourage full-time, long-term jobs here. That's what the wind farm would bring.

'We are in early days of talking, whether or not they (Dong) will come here we don't know but Wells has got a good chance. The amount of money they would save in fuel and man hours is colossal so we definitely have a chance and we are doing all we can to attract the business.'

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick added: 'North Norfolk District Council is keen to secure as many new job opportunities and economic benefits associated with offshore wind energy developments off the north Norfolk Coast as possible, recognising that the port of Wells is the nearest harbour to a number of schemes including Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon and the Race Bank schemes.

'The district council believes Wells/Egmere have a strong offer to make to Dong Energy, and other offshore wind farm operators, and will work hard to secure this investment for North Norfolk over the coming months.'

Allen Frary, chairman of Wells Town Council, said they would welcome the boost to Wells' economy if the operations and maintenance base was set up in the area.

Peter Terrington, North Norfolk District Council councillor for the Priory ward which includes Wells, also said he would welcome any economic benefit to the town and surrounding area.

A Dong Energy spokesman said: 'We are currently looking at options for the operations and maintenance base for the Race Bank offshore wind farm. A decision will not be made until next year.'

Earlier this year, Dong Energy ruffled fishermen's feathers when it issued an injunction which prevented fishing in an area of The Wash to allow survey work to be completed.

Nicky King, chairman of the Wells and District Inshore Fishermen's Association, said they were getting closer to reaching an agreement with the firm but the winter months pose their own challenges for the industry.

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