Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Rampion - Potential impacts on shipping, fishing, sailing and diving.

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you have had a good week.
     I've been busy contacting some of those who, potentially, could be the most effected by the Rampion offshore wind farm proposal. This means I've got depressingly far behind with my play for Shoreham Wordfest, however I think that's forgivable in view of the 6th May deadline for us to have our say.
     Before we get down to business, thank you so much to all those who have shared their views on the potential impacts. Your comments made this blog possible and add another colour to the mix.

Commercial shipping
The shipping lanes along the south-east coast of England, (from North Foreland to Selsey Bill), are some of the busiest in the world.
     One of these lanes lies 15 miles off Shoreham Port so commercial vessels sail down the highway, exit just south-east of the harbour mouth and are escorted into the Port by the Pilot. The bulk of the proposed wind farm, (167km2), would impinge upon this shipping lane.
     I understand that Ship's Masters will sail around, rather than through, a wind farm. So if the Rampion proposal went ahead, commercial vessels would leave the shipping lane earlier than at present,  head inshore and sail closer to the coast as they approached Shoreham Harbour.
     Whilst re-routing would be inconvenient,  I understand that it would be unlikely to stop commercial vessels from using Shoreham Harbour and the Port would work to ensure that the proposal would not have an adverse impact on its' continued development.

Commercial Fishing.
The shallow coastal seas off the Sussex coast are home to an "amazing diversity of habitats," which supports a wide range of plant and animal life. This results in rich inshore fishing grounds and most of the commercial boats operating off the Sussex coast usually operate within 6 nautical miles of the shore.
     Shoreham Port is the largest fishing port between Brixham, Devon and Lowestoft, Suffolk. In 2009, 4,260 tonnes of fish with a value of £6.3 million were landed at Shoreham Port and Shoreham is England's number one port for scallop landings.
     Under the 2008 Planning Act, E.ON is required to carry out a community consultation before submitting its' application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. As part of this they have set up Public Liaison Groups, one of which is the Commercial Fishing Working Group, (CFWG).
     This was what was said when they met in November 2011,

"The CFWG maintain that there will be tremendous losses to commercial fishing.. the primary reason the fishermen are participating in the CFWG and co-operating is to secure compensation for lost income to fishermen... displacement is a key issue which will put pressure on other areas, e.g scallop dredgers will be moving into other areas and cause problems for the smaller operators... it may effect Selsey fishermen if the development pushes fishermen from the Rampion area to Littlehampton, as then the Littlehampton fishermen may move further west to Selsey." 

Recreational Sailing
Sussex Yacht Club (SYC), is one of the oldest sailing clubs in the country and is based at Shoreham. It has over 1,400 members and there are at least 300-500 transits by leisure vessels across the affected area by SYC and other yacht clubs in Sussex annually.
     It is unlikely that SYC membership would be affected and the club racing along the coast would be "wholly unaffected as we have been advised there would be no alteration to the seabed within the area which we use for our day races." The biggest impact would be felt on the Royal Escape Race, an annual commemorative race from Brighton to Fecamp, France."Between 60-120 yachts take part in this, the largest cross channel event from Sussex. If Rampion goes ahead, the yachts would have to sail around the wind farm adding at least 10 nautical miles to the race distance; some cannot cover that distance in the hours of daylight."
     Laurence Woodhams is SYC's Rear Commodore and Hon. Treasurer. He also sits on another of E.ON's community consultative bodies, the Sea Users Project Liaison Group.

"Rampion would have a considerable impact on sailing in the area but I feel the interests of leisure sailing would not be considered important enough to interfere with or significantly modify a national infrastructure project such as Rampion. If all the PLGs had problems with it, then our interests may add to the weight of opinion. The project is still in its consultation stage and my duty is to gather and share information with our members. Once all is known then the members of the club will form a collective opinion. In the meantime we shall add our experience of sailing in the area to the information being collated by E.on.”

If the proposal were granted, it would take 2-3 years to complete the offshore element of the wind farm. During that time there would be an exclusion zone around the construction area and the noise emanating from the works “may also have an impact on the divers in the area" (E.ON Community Consultation Document page 35).
     Chris West, a local diving skipper, has been diving wrecks in the area for over 40 years.  His 20 year old boat charter business, Buccaneer Diving, works out of Shoreham and takes divers out to see the shipwrecks all along the Sussex coast.

"All the underwater work, piling, building bases, trenching out for cables and covering over, is likely to cause so much disturbance to the seabed and cause so much sediment, that we will not have any underwater visibility for at least a year during the construction phase and the seabed disturbance will probably take at least another six months to return to normal afterwards. What’s more, this plume of sediment is likely to spread several miles east and west of the construction site.
     A year or two after the wind farm is established, the bases of the windmills will become their own shelter from the tidal current and hopefully life will return around them."

Maritime Rescue Services
I have not spoken to the RNLI but I am convinced that they will continue to save lives at sea regardless. 
     Roland McKie, Staff Officer, SAR (Search and Rescue) said,
"The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have done considerable work over the past 6 years or so, with the offshore renewable energy industry, Search and Rescue helicopter services, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and relevant government departments, to analyse and consider the impacts of offshore wind farms on Search and Rescue operations.
     SAR helicopters are not the only way to rescue people at sea. We have RNLI lifeboats, and all vessels at sea are obliged, by international regulations, to assist wherever they can. SAR helicopters are only one of the tools available to the Coastguard to provide rescue at sea and may not always be the most suitable option.
     We have developed a number of procedures, processes and requirements to ensure that helicopters can conduct rescues from within and around wind turbines; for example we have procedures to enable rescue of injured wind farm workers from the nacelles of wind turbines. We have also created guidance, with the input of the helicopter and lifeboat crews, for rescue procedures within wind farms for other persons in danger e.g. craft or vessels within a wind farm that require rescue or assistance.
     Furthermore, the wind farm operators are obliged to provide immediate rescue cover for their own workers and, because their work boats, like any other vessel, are required to assist persons in danger at sea, they provide a response capability to anyone else who might be in danger outside or within a wind farm.
     Continuing work is underway to mitigate any negative effects that wind farms might have on rescue operations."

Visual impact on the seascape. 

I know that some people are just concerned with the visual impact of the turbines. 
     If you want to gauge the potential effect on the seascape for yourself, head towards Worthing Pier and look out towards E.ON's Met Mast. The Met Mast is 110metres high and the tallest turbine (to the top of the blade tip) would be 210 metres high.
     The mast is positioned right next to the proposed location of the second turbine on the front row of turbines (p.13 Community consultation document.)
     Thus this week we know a bit more about the potential impact of the proposal from sources other than E.ON. Please remember I'm just testing what E.ON have said. It's up to you to have your say, for or against the proposal.

Have a good week and see you soon.

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