Should Wind Turbines be built in sight of Le Mont St Michel, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lower Normandy?
Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island, one kilometre from the Normandy coast and famed for the stunning Benedictine abbey perched atop the island. The first monastry was built there in the 8th century. The island was declared a historic monument in 1874 and was added to the UNESCO world heritage site list 30 years ago, in 1979.
From repeated attacks by English warriors to annual invasions of daytrippers, the Mont-St-Michel has faced many a threat in its history. But locals and activists claim the majestic site is now on the verge of suffering one of the worst indignities yet: a host of towering wind turbines which critics say will ruin the magnificent panorama and “massacre” the landscape of the windswept Normandy coast.
Vowing to “send a message to the [French] government” that plans to build in 11 locations near the island were unacceptable, hundreds of locals and anti-wind energy activists led a protest march last weekend.
Calling for the “devastating” plan to be abandoned, the Federation for Sustainable Development (FED) said that although it was committed to other renewable energy forms, large-scale industrial wind power was “neither viable, nor bearable nor fair”.
Protesters blame Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, arguing that his drive to boost the green energy sector has seen a rush to build windfarms in various unsuitable locations. The choice of the countryside around Mont-St-Michel, a Unesco world heritage site, has proved particularly unpopular.
A spokeswoman for one of the protesting associations told Ouest France newspaper that the planned turbines – the closest of which would be under 10 miles from the Mont – would be “as visible as a nose in the middle of a face”.
MY VIEW: Would it? I know the bay gives panoramic views for miles, but if the wind turbines are almost 10 miles away, would they really be such a blight on the views of/from the Mont Saint Michel Abbey? Is the Abbey’s status and fame simply being used as an excuse? Whether wind energy ANYWHERE is a solution to our energy problems is a separate issue!
“If we allow them to be built here, why not next to châteaux in the Loire or other world-renowned sites?” she asked.
Although the anti-wind campaign appears to be gathering momentum – inspired, among others, by the 83-year-old former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who claims that windfarms are not only ugly but are disruptive to bird migration – there is little chance that Sarkozy will tone down his rhetoric.
The president has said he wants national wind energy capacity to reach 25,000MW by 2020, from 3,400MW at the start of this year, a target which observers say he is highly unlikely to achieve.
His vision is nonetheless supported by most green groups, who are critical of “short-sighted” anti-wind organisations such as FED.