The Isle of Man Government, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, and the Manx Chamber of Commerce have objected to a proposed extension to the Walney Offshore Wind Farm in the Irish Sea off the north Wales/ Lancashire coast at a public hearing of the UK Planning Inspectorate.
The plans for development off the Cumbrian coast, submitted by Dong Energy, were considered at a recent hearing in Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man, and the cumulative impact of proposed offshore wind farm developments in the Irish Sea was also discussed.
Air navigation matters were explored in the morning session as wind farms impact on radar cover for aircraft. The impact on sea navigation and safety, as well as the social and economic implications for the Island, were discussed in the afternoon session.
John Watt, Commercial Director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company – the world’s oldest continualliy-operating passenger shipper, established in 1830 – explained there could be ‘ serious economic’ impact on the Isle of Man.
He said: ‘We do not object to appropriately located wind farms and have not objected to the majority of wind farm developments in the Irish Sea. We do not object to Walney Extension if developed in isolation, but the Steam Packet Company must review the ultimate effect of the Walney Extension Project and the North East Potential Development Area (NE PDA) as proposed by Dong/Centrica.
“The positioning, the cumulative impact of Walney extension and the NE PDA, and the lack of viable adverse weather routing options has not yet been adequately addressed.
‘These routes are essential for safe navigation in adverse weather which can be common in this sea area, and cancellations arising from a lack of suitable weather routing options will therefore have a serious negative socio-economic impact for us and indeed the whole of the Isle of Man.’
He added: ‘Our services offer a lifeline for the Isle of Man. We carry around 600,000 passengers annually, 170,000 cars, motorcycles and coaches, and over 400,000 metres of freight vehicles which provide critical supplies.’
Watt also told the hearing that Dong/Centrica had not completed market research or interviews with Isle of Man businesses, public services or the travelling public dependent on reliable sailings, ‘despite previously promising to do so.’
The Planning Inspectorate also heard from Captain Graeme Proctor, of the UK Marine Coastguard Agency, Adrian Mundin, of the UK Chamber of Shipping, and Captain Dave Eccles, representing Stena Line, who all concurred with Manx concerns that while the proposed Walney Windfarm extension in isolation could be accommodated, the cumulative impact of Walney and the North East Potential Development Area would be unacceptable from a navigational safety perspective.
Concerns regarding the impact on the Island’s air and sea lifeline access were also raised by Jane Dellar, Chief Executive, Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, and Michael Gallagher, the Isle of Man Government’s Director of Planning.
John Pennington, from Travelwatch, stressed the importance of reliable shipping and air services to passenger interests and highlighted that the visual impact of turbines up to 222 metres high would also be significant. TravelWatch submitted an illustration of the scale to the Inspectors, as Dong ‘did not appear to illustrate adequately the sheer magnitude of the proposed installations.’
UK Planning Inspectors are now considering the evidence before making a recommendation to Ed Davey, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.