Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A wind farm consequence I have never seen reported

Last week the Mrs and I visited Clacton, a town I know quite well having lived nearby and attended school there in the 60s and I somewhere I have visited frequently during the 50 years since to see friends. During the visit we decided to walk off the effects of the car journey with a stroll along the promenade to the north of the pier, the area I know best.

We noticed they had recently done quite a lot of work to the lower promenade. As far as I know the quiet out of centre promenade north of the pier, with rows of beach huts on one side and a low wall  with steps opening down to the beach every 100 yards or so on the other, hasn’t significantly changed since I first walked along it as a child. But this time we found quite a bit of repair work had been done and some whole sections of the pathway recently replaced and realigned. Then we realised that it wasn’t just one beach access that was blocked by work but that all the openings down to the beach along that stretch of promenade had been blocked with orange barriers and a notice as shown in the pic above.

The sea off Clacton is very shallow in places and there are a number of large sandbanks all round that section of coast, extending right round East Anglia and down into the Thames, many are shallow enough to break surface at low tide. It’s these sandbanks (once the bane of pirate radio ships in the winter storms) that are now being used to base offshore wind farms, like the large Gunfleet sands wind farm 4 miles off the coast at Clacton. However the East Anglia coast and the sandbanks are not stable, and never have been. Dunwich in Suffolk was one of the most important ports in the UK some 800 years ago until it vanished under the sea, and all along the East Anglia coast erosion has always been, and continues to be, a problem. I can remember bits of Walton coast road being washed into the sea some 50 years ago. Meanwhile the sandbanks also move and shift naturally with the sea currents, requiring constantly updated charts for mariners to avoid the shallows and find the safe channels.

So guess what happens when you take an area of high currents, shifting sandbanks and unstable coastline and fill the shallow sandbank areas with a wind farm that obstructs the sea currents? It’s obvious to anyone except an environmentalist isn’t it! The sea currents change, in this case suddenly and significantly in the 3 years since the wind farm was commissioned. As a result one end of Clacton front is now drowning in heaps of sand that’s being washed up and dumped along the coast. At the other end of Clacton the beach has been washed away, the sand scoured out by the currents leaving the beach area unsafe and unusable and the promenade now being undercut and made dangerous, requiring massive repairs. I’m told by a local boat enthusiast that the sandbanks too are changing and shifting rapidly due to the changed currents, making charts go rapidly out of date with the consequent danger to everyone with a boat. And this isn’t just small pleasure boats,  this bit of channel is on the way to some of our biggest ports like London, Felixstowe and Harwich.

The more educated person might wonder what’s being done about the problem, and how much work is being done to assess the damage and mitigate it. But sadly that’s not happening. What is happening is the intention to build yet another huge wind farm next door to the existing one. It’s a hackneyed phrase but you really couldn’t make it up could you?