Opponents vow challenge 'if wind farm ruling is unlawful'

Ray Pearce, who lives close to where cabling from the wind farm would go underground . Picture: Ian

Ray Pearce, who lives close to where cabling from the wind farm would go underground . Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Opponents of plans to dig a 60km trench through the Norfolk countryside and a new substation “the size of Wembley stadium” for an offshore wind farm have slammed the decision to approve it.

Ray Pearce, who lives near Reepham, has vowed to ask for a judicial review into the energy secretary of state Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision to approve the wind farm - Vattenfall’s Boreas - if the ruling was found to be unlawful.

The project has been hailed as an economic boost for Norfolk, creating jobs, boosting businesses and placing the region at the forefront of the burgeoning renewable energy sector.

Mr Pearce has already successfully challenged another wind farm called Vanguard planned by the Swedish state-owned firm in the High Court.

He said of the new decision: “It’s absolutely shocking. I’ll now take the time to read [the ruling] and have a legal overview, and if it is unlawful we would go to judicial review.

“The laws of this country are there to protect the majority of us and not to be handed over to developers so they can make profits hand over fist.”

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Pictu

The Vattenfall project has been granted approval - Credit: Archant

The government’s published ruling states that the 'examining authority' recommended against the secretary of state granting permission for Boreas.

Mr Pearce said: “What we have got here is a foreign power exploiting UK permissive legislation for profit.”

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Mr Pearce and others had wanted Vattenfall and other energy firms to share infrastructure so multiple trenches would not have to be dug across the countryside by connecting wind farms at an offshore transmission network, or 'ring main'. 

One of the most affected villages is likely to be Necton, near Dereham, where a substation - which Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman described as “the size of Wembley Stadium” - would be built to connect the Vattenfall wind farms to the National Grid.

Jenny Smedley, leader of the Necton Substations Action Group, said the Boreas ruling was “dispiriting”.

Jenny Smedley, spokessperson for Necton Substations Action Group. Picture: Jenny Smedley

Jenny Smedley, spokessperson for Necton Substations Action Group. Picture: Jenny Smedley - Credit: Jenny Smedley

She said: “Basically, the whole process has been a waste of time. It seems like they’re rushing it through because they’re in a panic.”

Mrs Smedley said an offshore transmission network was already being investigated by the National Grid and the government itself - and it would be further developed - so it would be a shame if Vattenfall missed out in linking into this.

But energy companies including Vattenfall have said the technology and regulation needed for a more integrated offshore grid are still years away and would not be ready in time for the current generation of wind farms.

Wildlife charity warns of 'disastrous consequences' 

Although the planned wind farms are intended to protect the environment, there are concerns sea birds such as kittiwakes, gannets and lesser black-backed gulls could be killed by the turbine blades, and make it harder fro birds to get to and from their nests. 

Katie-Jo Luxton, director for conservation at the  Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the trade-off was a bad one.

She said: "This results in the secretary of state taking decisions which permit action on climate while accepting the results will lead to wildlife declines and worsening the nature emergency.

“Our marine planning system is failing nature and net zero; the energy industry is being locked into sites where planners acknowledge further development will harm our marine environment.

"The cumulative impacts from increasing numbers of turbines in already degraded seas are predicted to have disastrous consequences for kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, lesser black-backed gulls and many of the other amazing birds relying on our seas."

Ms Luxton said the government had committed to halting wildlife decline through its new Environment Act.

She said: "We now need to see ambition and commitment turned into action - our seas and climate cannot afford to wait.”