Question mark over windfarm plans

A QUESTION mark has been raised over controversial wind farm plans on the doorstep of two villages after the company behind it went into administration.

A QUESTION mark has been raised over controversial wind farm plans on the doorstep of two villages after the company behind it went into administration.

The revised application for four turbines on the doorstep of Ormesby and Hemsby is likely to be considered by borough councillors in January.

However, the 700-strong workforce at Lowestoft company SLP face an uncertain few weeks as administrators search to find a new buyer for the business. Plans for four giant 125m turbines were withdrawn two years ago after encountering fierce opposition from residents in both villages.

Trimmed plans for 105m high structures were drawn up by SLP in September to deal with concerns they would interfere with television signals and harm bird life.

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Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby parish council chairman Geoff Freeman said: “Even if SLP go under another company would be likely to see the scheme as a good business opportunity to take on.

“Reducing the size of the tower and turbine has dealt with most of the fears and I do believe the scheme will go ahead.”

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Though 45 management jobs were lost immediately, about 700 jobs are safe until SLP completes a separate major project for BP next spring.

On Friday last week the workers were told that the company that makes the giant accommodation modules for use in offshore gas and oil exploration across the world had been forced to go in to administration.

Stephen Oldfield of PricewaterhouseCoopers was appointed as administrator after months of speculation about the firm's future and a multi-million-dollar legal dispute over a Middle East oil deal.

Mr Oldfield said talks were continuing with other SLP customers in the hope of persuading them to continue with their projects.

Asked if he expected a single buyer for SLP - which also has operations in Tyneside, Blackpool and New Malden - Mr Oldfield said: “The business based in Blackpool - the precast business which makes sea defences - I think that will be sold separately.

“The remainder of the business has two main facets to it: oil and gas, and wind energy.

“I think the attraction of Lowestoft in relation to the southern North Sea and, in particular, wind energy in the medium to long term means I would expect to see buyers looking at both activities in the town - both oil and gas and wind energy.”

Earlier this year, SLP chief executive David Edwards said that the company's order book accounted for 3,000 jobs in the wider engineering and energy sector in East Anglia. The firm has grown to become one of Lowestoft's biggest private sector employers since starting out in 1970.

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