Britain's most prestigious sailing club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, is orchestrating a campaign against the largest wind farm ever planned in the world, off the south coast of England. It fears the Navitus Bay wind farm could impact on the main sailing route from the Isle of Wight to the south west, including the Fastnet Race, which starts in Cowes and finishes in Plymouth.
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The development comprises 200 turbines, each the height of a skyscraper and spread over an area the size of Glasgow. The planned wind farm, which is three to four times bigger than any previously built, is expected to earn its Dutch owners Eneco more than a quarter of a billion pounds a year in subsidies alone.
The scheme has already attracted widespread criticism with opponents claiming it will ruin coastal views for generations to come. Eneco has submitted notice of its plans – in a 173-page report – to a special Government body set up to deal with 'national significant' infrastructure projects. A full planning application for the wind farm is expected next year with the decision process taking a further 18 months.
Eneco's preplanning report suggests each turbine could be as high as 670 feet – taller than the Gherkin skyscraper in London – and as close as eight miles to the coast. Eneco claims it will provide power for anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000 homes.
The campaign against the Navitus Bay wind farm is being spearheaded by the Royal Yacht Squadron, which is based in Cowes.
It has written to 200 sailing clubs on the Isle of Wight and along the south coast calling for concerted action against the development, which will occupy 76 square miles of the English Channel between the Isle of Wight and the Dorset coast.
Chris Mason, the Royal Yacht Squadron's yachting secretary, said: 'We understand renewable energy is important but it is very difficult to see why it has to be built this close to the land.
'This is prime sailing territory. This is definitely a hazard and definitely a problem for sailors.' Mr Mason said he had no idea if Prince Philip, who is the squadron's admiral and as such its head, had been consulted before the letter had been sent out.
Chris Radford, who runs the Challenge Navitus campaign group, said: 'Navitus is eight miles from the shore and the turbines could be 200 metres high.
'This could damage an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage site and a great public amenity. There are also potentially damaging effects on tourism, safe navigation, diving and fishing interests.
'Nothing on this scale has previously been built so close to a tourist area. We think these risks are out of balance with the suggested benefits from wind power. This development could be further offshore or somewhere else with less impact.'