Windfarm may take town back to boom time

Jobs and investment flowing from a 1,600-turbine windfarm - the world,s second largest - being built off Great Yarmouth have been hailed as the “saviour” of the town.

Jobs and investment flowing from a 1,600-turbine windfarm - the world,s second largest - being built off Great Yarmouth have been hailed as the “saviour” of the town.

Sites are being considered by the council to enable the development of the �21bn project, which will lie off 15 miles off Yarmouth's coastline and could herald profound changes for the area.

Although construction won't start for another five years Graham Plant, portfolio holder for tourism and regeneration at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, is scanning the town for areas ripe for projects linked to the windfarm, working with regional bodies to get a fair share of the predicted 4,000 to 10,000 jobs to the East of England.

Mr Plant said: “We are at the beginning of this, and the way the country is at the moment means there's no vast amount of money available, so this money will be a saviour for us here.

“Big companies coming in and setting up is the best way Great Yarmouth could survive the coming years.”

He added that an influx of workers for the windfarm would likely be matched by local improvements in infrastructure, such as road access.

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“What we want to do is make sure that regionally we get as big a slice of what is a very big cake as we can, and we're working on making sure that Yarmouth benefits from any offers that come along.”

From its background in the gas industry through to the presence of the outer harbour, Yarmouth is in a good position, Mr Plant emphasised, to take advantage of the new development in the area at all stages.

“It could be in the cabling that will be required - enough to use up a year and a half's worth of the total produced globally- or in storing the turbines on land. We just don't know yet.”

And it was in this context that he expressed “major concern” relating to rumours that a helicopter company which ferries offshore workers from a heliport in the town might pull out and relocate to Norwich.

“We're concerned about this development because the helipad would be strategically perfect for the windfarm.”

The borough council is currently in the early stages of talks with local and regional bodies about how to attract investment for the project, which will cover an area larger than Norfolk and won't be visible from the shore.

Among the issues being discussed are education, and Mr Plant added that deep changes in the way local children are taught could help towards benefitting the next generation.

“It's about gearing people's mindsets and offering aspirations for the area, and this would offer such big potential that could be of benefit to everyone.”

News that the site, known as Zone 5 Norfolk, had been secured by Scottish Power and state-owned Swedish power group Vattenfall was announced in January. It is expected to generate 45,000 jobs nationally, and is one of nine sites being developed around Great Britain in the effort to make sure 20pc of Britain's energy is renewable by 2020.

John Best, Chief Executive of the East of England Energy Group, said he believed the region's strength lay in acting collectively.

“I would say that this offers an evolution for area - we still have a very important gas industry, which already involves many of the skills required to build and maintain a wind farm.

“If you think of the range of energy sources that are being developed, where we are is the right geographical location to maximise the potential of the long term sustainable employment industry.

“Yarmouth and Lowestoft are in a great position because they have the strength of the region behind them.”