'Money can't compensate' for disruption caused by offshore wind, campaigners say
- Credit: JASON HAWKES
A campaigner has described the conclusions of a report on offshore wind farms as a "sticking plaster on an open wound".
The report from think-tank Policy Exchange called for compensation for communities where onshore infrastructure such as underground cables, pylons and substations has to be built to connect offshore turbines to the grid.
They also say they support an offshore wind "ring main" where neighbouring farms in the sea work together to reduce the burden of infrastructure on communities.
The report, authored by former energy secretaries Dame Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd, called for the Government to introduce mandatory "offshore wind wealth funds" for all new offshore wind farms.
Michael Mahony, a member of Substation Action Save East Suffolk (SASES), said: "The fundamental point is this: you cannot compensate for permanent damage to the landscape, permanent damage to cultural heritage, major disruption to people's lives, and creating noisy infrastructure in a rural environment.
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"To call for compensation in this area, is fundamentally misconceived. Money can't compensate for these things."
Instead, Mr Mahony called for a unified vision in the planning of offshore wind farms with onshore infrastructure being built on brownfield sites in the south-east rather than rural areas of East Anglia.
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Mr Mahony said the planned onshore substations could take up as much as 30 acres, with hundreds of acres of arable land being landscaped to hide them from view.
"Norfolk and Suffolk are deeply rural environments, and you're dumping hundreds of acres of industrial infrastructure," he said. "You can't compensate for that with money."
In the report's foreword Dame Andrea and Ms Rudd wrote: "Local communities are rightly concerned about the sheer amount of infrastructure built by individual offshore wind companies and the Government must act.
"The Government should urgently carry out an audit of all outstanding plans for onshore infrastructure relating to offshore wind farms and consider ways to minimise the damage to precious inland areas.
"Where new onshore infrastructure is needed, we should compensate local communities through new 'Offshore Wind Wealth Funds'.
"We already do this for onshore wind farms through 'Community Benefit Funds', and we were planning something similar for fracking.
"It's absolutely right that coastal and rural communities should be compensated for hosting new large-scale infrastructure that provides national benefits but has local negative impacts."
Ed Birkett, senior research fellow at Policy Exchange, and author of the report, said: "Offshore wind is a huge UK success story. But success brings new challenges.
"Unless the Government gets ahead of this problem, new offshore wind farms will be delayed or even blocked by increasing local resistance."