Public inquiry into controversial Dunkirk wind farm

French authorities are to hold a public inquiry into an application to build an offshore wind farm near Dunkirk in northern France. The proposed project has been heavily criticised by Belgium.

The inquiry, which will begin on 8 April, will consider concerns raised by the port of Ostend that the installation could disrupt shipping routes between Belgium and the United Kingdom. The former Belgian federal minister for the North Sea, Vincent Van Quickenborne, lodged a complaint with the European Commission a year ago.

The French company Eoliennes en Mer de Dunkerque and the country's transmission system operator plan to build the wind farm 10 kilometres off the coast and 11.4 kilometres from Belgian coastal towns. The proposed development consists of 46 wind turbines between 240 and 300 metres high.

Visual impact and disrupted sea routes

The 600 MW farm will have an annual production capacity of approximately 2.3 TWh - enough to power 950,000 households. The farm is expected to operate for 30 years from 2028 and will cost 1.4 billion euros to build and connect to the grid.

The project has met with considerable opposition in Belgium, with the mayors of De Panne, Koksijde and Nieuwpoort unhappy about the visual impact the structures will have on the landscape. In addition, several sea routes between the port of Ostend and the United Kingdom could be affected.

The Belgian federal government, on the advice of former North Sea minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, has opposed the proposal. But last year the French Council of State ruled against the Belgian authorities.

Moving turbines five kilometres

The public inquiry will take into account feedback from Belgium, and both sides will have the opportunity to make comments, objections or even recommendations.

The current Belgian minister for the North Sea, Paul Van Tigchelt, encourages "anyone who might be affected by the park to take part in the public inquiry". He promised that "the federal government will do everything possible to protect the rights of local residents, the port of Ostend and other stakeholders".

Van Tigchelt said that the federal government itself had sought an alternative that would see the turbines moved five kilometres further out to sea. He believes that this proposal would "eliminate almost all objections".


#FlandersNewsService | © AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry 

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