The RYA is encouraging east coast and Welsh cruisers to look in detail at eight proposed windfarm sites in England and Wales, which are being considered by the Crown Estate

Sailors who use cruising grounds close to proposed windfarm extension sites in the UK are being urged to scrutinise the plans, with warnings from the RYA that the developments could be ‘massive’.

The Crown Estate has released details of eight sites in England and Wales which have made it through the initial application process.

They are: Sheringham Shoal, Dudgeon and Race Bank in the North Sea, Greater Gabbard and Galloper off the Suffolk coast, Rampion off the Sussex Coast, Thanet in Kent and Gwynt y Môr 
in North Wales.

Coastlines under threat?

Over the next nine months, Habitats Regulations Assessments 
to examine any impact on nature conservation sites of European importance will be carried out, with leases expected to be granted by summer 2019.

Successful developers would then start project-specific environmental assessments and seek consent for their projects via the statutory planning process.

The RYA cruising manager, Stuart Carruthers said the association would be scrutinising the proposals and encouraged east coast and Welsh sailors to do the same.

‘We will be looking at this very carefully. Although the applications are called extensions, there is the potential for these sites to double in size. We are concerned these sites could be massive,’ stated Carruthers.

The RYA will be fully involved in the navigational risk assessment process which looks closely at safety and the impact on navigation, and will discuss any concerns with both the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Trinity House.

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Carruthers said extensions at Gwynt y Môr could mean the entire coast of north Wales from Llandudno to Anglesey would be one large 
wind farm.

He said of particular concern were Rampion, where an extension could impact on the Channel Separation Zone, and extensions for Galloper and Greater Gabbard, which could leave little room for commercial craft using the Thames Estuary.

Although paths can be designated within wind farms, Carruthers said developers were not keen because of the loss 
of seabed territory.

‘We are concerned that navigation seems fairly down the pecking order when the Crown Estate allows these leases,’ he stated.

Calling for ‘sensible development’, the RYA’s cruising manager said the turbine layout is often unknown when licenses are approved.

He wants this to change, concerned that some modern designs are not in neat 
grids which could cause issues of disorientation for search and rescue helicopters or those sailing through.

Crown Estate stressed it carefully considers both the impact on the environment and the existing users of the seabed when deciding on licenses for extensions.

Considered approach

The head of energy development, Will Apps, said: ‘It is really positive to see such a strong response to the opportunity for extension projects. 
In parallel with our Habitats Regulations Assessment, we will continue to work closely with the applicants and our stakeholders to ensure careful consideration of any environmental impacts and existing users of the seabed, ahead of any award of rights.’

Meanwhile, plans to build Scotland’s largest windfarm off 
the coast of Monroe have recently been submitted to Marine Scotland.

Seagreen Wind Energy Limited 
wants permission to install up to 120 wind turbines, generating enough power for 670,000 homes, in the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay.

In September 2018, the world’s biggest offshore windfarm, The Walney Extension, officially opened off the Cumbrian coast.