A nine-week public consultation on proposals for the expansion of the Rampion offshore wind farm is currently underway.
The new plans could see 325-metre-high turbines – the same height as the Eiffel Tower and taller than the highest peak of the South Downs — installed and a new 11-acre sub station built in Bolney.
Scores of people, from across West Sussex, attended a community-led meeting at The Manor House in Littlehampton on Tuesday evening (August 24).
Among the concerns raised were that the proposals would go against government guidelines, whilst also posing a threat to wildlife and the economy.
Dr Colin Ross, who launched the website protectcoastalengland.org said there won’t be any part of the horizon where you wouldn’t be able to see the turbines.
“There’s no uninterrupted view,” he said. “You will see them almost everywhere.
“Nowhere in the UK has turbines so large and so close to the shore. This is unique.
“Tourism is what is important. People will come and spend money in our cafés and restaurants or spend time overnight.
“What was identified is that 50 per cent will say they like wind farms but 30 will say they don’t and then 20 per cent will say they will never come back.
“They will go to neighbouring coastlines instead. They won’t come here. We will lose about 2,800 jobs in West Sussex and about 1,000 jobs in this area, the Arun district.”
However, ‘all the anecdotal evidence suggests Rampion is a tourist attraction’, a spokesperson for the wind farm said.
They added: “The Rampion Visitor Centre is forecast to attract 100,000 people a year once Covid restrictions allow, and there was strong competition from towns along the Sussex coastline bidding to host the visitor centre.
“Furthermore, local charter vessels are in high demand to take tourists offshore to see the wind farm, from various ports along the Sussex coast. There is no evidence to suggest that Rampion has had a negative impact on tourism.”
Last year, proposals were drawn up to extend the 116-turbine wind farm off the coast of Worthing as far west as Selsey Bill and east along to Newhaven.
The current turbines stand at 140m in height when their blades are at their highest, eight miles from the shoreline at their closest point.
The new wind farm would have the potential to supply over one million UK homes with ‘clean renewable electricity’ — in addition to Rampion’s existing power generation — and reduce carbon emissions by around 1.8 million tonnes per year. It could create ‘up to three times the amount of power’.
An underground cable route is proposed to carry the power under Climping Beach to Bolney Substation in Twineham, to connect to the National Grid via a new substation required close by.
Campaigners have stressed that they ‘support all forms of truly green renewable energy’ but claimed that his new and independent wind farm in the Sussex Bay ‘would not be green’.
They added that, if the project goes ahead, it will not use or connect to any of the existing turbines, onshore or offshore cable connections, or substations of the existing Rampion wind farm.
A spokesperson said: “Rampion 2 would be inshore – not offshore – this would be against the Government guidelines and policy.”
Two representatives from, Germany energy group, RWE made a virtual presentation and answered questions from residents at the meeting.
Project manager Vaughan Weighill said: “We wouldn’t be involved in a project which goes against fundamental government guidelines.
“The proposals went through strategic environmental assessments. We are going to look at how we can adapt the current broad proposals.”
On concerns from one resident that the turbines would be ‘murder to the wildlife’, Rampion’s development and stakeholder manager Chris Tomlinson added: “We had to carry out two years worth of survey data. We did it for Rampion 1 and doing it again now.
“What I can say, so far, is that the original Rampion project wasn’t deemed to have a significant impact on birds at all.”
Of the 79 people who attended the meeting, 77 voted in favour of asking Rampion 2 to assess moving turbines 25 miles offshore as a 'reasonable alternative'. The final resolution stated that a non-project alternative assessed 'should be extension of a wind farm application in Dogger Bank'.
A nine-week formal public consultation on draft proposals runs until September 16 at Rampion2.com and is an opportunity for people to have their say.
The spokesperson said: “We welcome feedback, concerns and suggestions so that they can be taken into consideration.
“We encourage people to visit rampion2.com to view our draft proposals in a series of fact sheets, maps, charts and videos.
“We will consider all the consultation feedback alongside the results of technical and environmental surveys, to further refine our proposals and select construction methodologies and environmental mitigations that reduce impacts to a minimum. We will submit our final proposals to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in early 2022.”