Public Meetings Open for Debate on Normandy Sea Wind Farm Project

ArromanchesEleven public meetings are being held in Calvados in Normandy to hear the views of the public over the planned wind farm off the coast at Courseulles-sur-Mer, it has been announced.

‘This is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the project from the opportunities it will bring to the potential impacts,’ said a spokesman for the Special Commission for Public Debate which has organised the series of meetings.

The commission has the job of overseeing the debates but does not rule on the merits of the project. ‘Our task is to provide complete, transparent and objective information to the public and to give the public the opportunity to be heard. The commission will ensure that the contracting authority answers all questions raised by the public,’ the spokesman explained.

‘The location of the project off the D-Day landing beaches fully justifies the participation of any British, Canadian and American nationals who may have concerns. All individuals and organisations have the right to ask questions and give their opinions with equal rights to speak,’ he added.

The €1.8 billion plan, if approved would see 75 wind turbines each with a total energy capacity of 450 megawatts installed 10 to 16 kilometres off a stretch of the Normandy coast between Ouistreham and Arromanches covering an area of 50 square kilometres.

There has been huge public opposition to the wind farm, most notably from veteran associations who believe it will be an eyesore visible from some of the most popular D-Day beaches and from environmental groups.

They believe that the turbines, half the height of the Eiffel Tower, could be visible from Sword, Juno and Gold beaches.
Thousands of people, including veterans and their families from the UK and Canada, have signed a petition organised by a group called The European Platform Against Wind farms. One veteran has even offered to come back and bomb the beaches if the project is approved.

Admiral Christian Brac de la Pèrriere, president of the Comité du Debarquément which organises D-Day commemoration events every year is against the plan.

‘France has striven for nearly 70 years to keep the invasion beaches unspoiled. The first thing that visitors do is to look out to sea and think of the invasion. This project is incoherent and inappropriate,’ he said.

But the department and the regional council are backing the project as it could see the creation of 7,000 of jobs at a time when the area is experiencing record high unemployment. It is also backed at a national political level as politians aim to provide almost a quarter of France’s needs from renewable energy by the end of the decade.

The main contractor, EDF-Energies Nouvelles, has already reined in the project and reduced the number of turbines from around 100 and wants to start work in two years time. It said that the turbines would be like matchsticks on the horizon.

The next meeting is on 15 May at the Centre des Congres in Caen, followed by the 31 May at the Salle de la Mer in Bernieres-sur-Mer, the 12 June at the Salle des Fetes in Arromanches, the 20 June at the Grange Aux Dimes in Ouistreham, the 11 July at the Salle Trianon in Lion-sur-Mer and on the 18 July at the Salle de l’Edit in Courseulles-sur-Mer.

The meeting at Arromanches will be held in English and French. All meetings start at 8pm in the evening. The commission is due to report on the public meetings by the middle of September and EDF and its partners are expected to make a decision on whether or not to go ahead before the end of 2013. If it goes ahead there will be another period of public consultation but work could start as early as 2015.

There are also plans for another wind farm off the coast of Normandy at Fécamp and two off the Brittany coast at Saint-Nazaire and Saint Brieuc.

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About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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