Earlier this month, several members of the Media and External Affairs team joined regional National Trust experts and consultants for a visit to Lundy Island. At the moment, Lundy is making headlines as a result of the controversial proposals for the Atlantic Array offshore wind farm. The National Trust is concerned by the impact of these proposals upon Lundy’s seascape and landscape, and we fear that the intrinsic wild and isolated nature of the island will be irreversibly destroyed.
Lundy lies just off the coast of North Devon where the Bristol Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean. Despite being only three and a half miles long, and half a mile wide, the island is renowned for being extremely special and unspoilt in character.
The trip gave us an opportunity to explore Lundy for ourselves and to get a feel for just what makes this island so unique. Given Lundy’s status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), you would of course expect the Island’s wildlife and vegetation to be spectacular. But such designations don’t allow you to gain a first-hand understanding of the sense of wildness and calm that surround the island – or a chance to take in the unobstructed, clear seascape views. This wildness is everywhere; from the jagged cliffs with freely growing lichens and brambles, to the vast open areas of heather. For years, visitors have enjoyed coming to Lundy for these very reasons and to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities such as bird and wildlife watching or relaxing walks. On our trip, we managed to catch a glimpse of the Soay sheep, Lundy ponies (a cross-breed of New Forest and Arabian varieties!), and birds such as the Manx shearwaters which populate the island.
We also saw an incredible range of sea animals – grey seals with their newly born pups and the more eagle-eyed amongst the group even spotted some harbour porpoises. Lundy was established as the UK’s first voluntary Marine Nature Reserve (MNR) in 1971, with the aim of protecting the diverse range of biodiversity, marine habitats and species. In 1986 it became England’s first and only statutory MNR, and Lundy has also been a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) since 2010. This long list of designations reinforces what an exceptional place Lundy is, and the importance of continuing to conserve it for the future.
The sheer size of the proposed wind turbines (some will be up to 50% taller than the highest point of Lundy) coupled with undesirable factors such as the red lights affixed to the turbines due to the proximity of Bristol Airport, fail to consider the sensitivity of the Lundy area. Current proposals don’t acknowledge that other forms of renewable energy, namely tidal and wave, could be much more appropriate with less visual impact, meaning they would be more sensitive to the Lundy setting. This could also generate energy more consistently as they are less variable. This needs consideration as the technology needed for tidal and wave energy can’t be added onto pre-existing wind turbines due to turbulences, therefore specific hydrodynamic modelling would be needed. A tidal flow approach would mean the whole project would need to be designed with the sole intention of being a purpose-built tidal and/or wave energy site.
The National Trust believes offshore wind has a really important contribution to make. Lundy is already using wind energy effectively in a way that is in keeping with the character of the island. As you can see from the photograph, the size of Lundy’s wind turbine has been carefully considered and is placed in an appropriate setting. This turbine supplies energy in a sustainable way and helps the island to be powered independently.
It is not just a matter of the proposed Atlantic Array wind development being within sight of the coastline protected by the Trust (as there are other offshore developments we have not objected to within sight of our properties). It is that the significance and the beauty of North Devon and Lundy will be damaged by this development that fails to take into account the sensitivity of the coast. Squeezed as it is, between two sensitive coastlines, we do not believe it is possible to locate a viable large scale wind farm within this zone without the damage substantially outweighing the benefits. For these reasons we will be objecting strongly to this proposal which would result in the industrialisation of one of our nation’s most wild and beautiful coastline – one which we have a duty to care for.
We’d love to hear of any experiences or memories you might have of Lundy, as well as your thoughts on the proposed Atlantic Array offshore wind farm.