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Suffolk: Fishermen’s concerns due to be raised at wind farm meeting today

09:00 02 September 2014

Great Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm

Great Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm

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Fishermen are hoping for a resolution today following a dispute over cabling problems at a wind farm off the Suffolk coast.

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Local fishermen will be heading to Lowestoft for a meeting with representatives from Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm Ltd and from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

Orford-based Roger Hipwell, former chairman of Orford and District Inshore Fishermen’s Association, said: “Around five years ago, Greater Gabbard Wind Farm negotiated with local fisherman for a disturbance allowance for a projected three-year scheme and received a small payment.

“But it was discovered that when the wind turbines were installed, there were problems with where the cable comes in to Sizewell.

“Last year it was found the cables weren’t sufficiently deeply buried so the licensing authority, MMO, stipulated the developers had to cover them with concrete mattresses.

“That was supposed to be in three weeks last September.”

But Mr Hipwell said only two-thirds of the mattresses were laid because of various issues.

“The workers weren’t allowed to work between the end of October and beginning of April this year because of the effect on the area’s diving birds but they have only just got round to finishing the mattresses.

“But the fishermen are not comfortable with the conditions. It has cost one fisherman a set of nets – which is about £3,000 – and it’s incredibly dangerous because it can sink the boat. We’ve tried to get the developer to acknowledge there should be some additional disruption payment.”

A spokesman for SSE, which runs Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm, said the company takes its obligations to the community it works in seriously.

He added: “Following the initial snagging claims in August last year we conducted a thorough survey and found no nets or any other opportunity for possible snagging.

“In addition, during the most recent concrete mattress laying campaign during August, the location of the reported snag was checked by divers and it was confirmed that the mattresses are now embedded in the seabed as per design.

“As well as conducting a thorough investigation into the snagging claims, we hold regular fishing liaison meetings with local fishermen and other interested parties to resolve any concerns they may have.”

An MMO spokesman confirmed it was due to attend the discussions but does not get involved in compensation negotiations.

“The MMO’s role has been to determine applications for the construction related to the win farm, such as export cable protection measures,” he said.

“We also enforce the conditions of the wind farm licence, which was granted prior to the MMO’s existence.

“We are aware of the fishing industry’s concerns around the work on the export cable.

“Regular working group meetings take place involving the developers, local fishing industry and other relevant organisations such as the Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, whose representative chairs these meetings.”

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