Time running out for critics of giant offshore wind farm
The deadline is looming for those wanting to influence hugely controversial proposals to build the world's second largest wind farm off the Devon coast.
Campaign groups are urging opponents of the Atlantic Array, a £3 billion project in the Bristol Channel, to make their voices heard and are staging a protest march this weekend.
An application is currently making its way through the official channels at the planning inspectorate from German energy firm RWE.
The cut-off date for registering an interest with the Planning Inspectorate is midnight on September 16.
RWE wants to construct 240 offshore turbines, each 722ft tall – more than four times the height of Nelson's column – to generate 1,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
The scheme, which it is estimated could earn the firm hundreds of millions of pounds a year in consumer subsidy, is planned for an area ten miles offshore and eight miles from Lundy Island.
Its developers say it will help Britain meet its renewable energy targets and could boost the economy by creating thousands of jobs.
But the plans have prompted a fierce backlash from residents in Devon and Wales as well as environmental and heritage groups, who claim it could cause lasting damage.
Niki Tait, who runs sailing firm Appledore Sails, which takes customers on a 31-foot yacht into the Bristol Channel, says her business will be seriously affected by the decade-long construction and the finished farm, which could cover 77 square miles.
Mrs Tait also thinks running a consultation during the busiest summer season in years could limit the amount of public feedback the scheme receives and prevent many critics from speaking out.
"The wind farm is right in the middle of my prime sailing sites," she added. "They say we can sail within it once it is finished but nobody in their right mind would go in there with 240-odd windmills mucking the wind about.
"I just don't think enough is being done to publicise the process – people need to register by September 16 or their voice will not be heard."
The scheme submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by RWE represents a scaled-down version of the original proposal for 417 turbines.
However, the National Trust warns that the proposal is "truly alarming" and would "fundamentally change" views from North Devon and Lundy.
Steve Crowther, of the Slay the Array campaign group, which is holding a rally in Barnstaple this Saturday morning, said that the scheme would have a "potentially catastrophic" effect on tourism in Devon.
Mr Crowther, who lives in Devon and is national chairman of the UK Independence Party, has said: that opposition is growing at a "considerable pace" with thousands of people already signed up to the campaign.
Currently the world's largest wind farm is the 175-turbine London Array in Kent.
However in July the Government approved plans for the Triton Knoll wind farm, comprising 288 turbines off Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
RWE says that the plans follow a consultation with local communities and other groups and take into account the results of environmental and engineering studies.
The Planning Inspectorate refused to disclose the number of representations it has received so far.
A spokesman said once people register they will be able to attend meetings and comment at a later date.