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You can’t win a ‘David and Goliath’ battle against wind farm giants, farmers told

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Picture: Vattenfall

Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project promises to be one of the largest in the world. Picture: Vattenfall

© Ben Barden Photography Ltd.

Norfolk landowners must accept they are in a “David versus Goliath” battle when negotiating with wind farm developers who want to dig cables across their property.

Jonathan Rush, land agency partner at Brown and Co, speaking at the firm's spring update seminar in Wymondham. Picture: Chris HillJonathan Rush, land agency partner at Brown and Co, speaking at the firm's spring update seminar in Wymondham. Picture: Chris Hill

This was one of the key messages for farmers and rural professionals at a series of spring update seminars run across East Anglia this week by agri-business and land agents from Brown and Co.

The meeting heard that Norfolk will see a proliferation of major infrastructure projects in the coming years including roads, electricity cables and gas pipelines – with the electricity transmission from offshore wind farm projects being a particular concern.

Currently, two major developments are being planned with vast onshore cable corridors criss-crossing the county – from Weybourne to Swardeston for Danish firm Orsted’s Hornsea Three project, and from Happisburgh to Necton for Swedish energy company Vattenfall.

Jonathan Rush, a partner in the land agency at Brown and Co’s Norwich office, said these were nationally-important projects supporting the government’s renewable energy targets – so rather than trying to fight the inevitable, landowners should start negotiating as soon as possible to get the best deal from the Development Consent Order (DCO) process.

“It is David versus Goliath, it really is,” he said. “These are huge multinational companies developing these schemes, and our government needs them to work, so it is about accepting that it is actually going to happen, and accepting that it is not fair on you or your clients. Once you can accept that it is all about the greater good, and not letting any one individual stand in the way of progress, then you can move on and do a deal.

“The key points we have to work through is negotiating what the payments are going to be, how they are going to access the land and do the works, measuring crop loss and any loss of contracts.

“We have to look beyond the immediate cable or piece of pipe that’s going to come through your land. It is a much bigger picture.”

READ MORE: Australians can teach East Anglian farmers a thing or two about efficiency, meeting told

Mr Rush said a crucial consideration was ensuring soil and drainage was protected and re-instated correctly after the works – and he gave one example of a “horror story” where the damage was so severe it resulted in a £50,000 claim for loss of topsoil.

“Civil engineers are not farmers, and they have a single purpose – they want to get the job done cheaply and quickly and they don’t care what they do to your soil,” he said.

“Nature has taken thousands of years to make it, and contractors will come and destroy it in a matter of minutes.

“The important thing is, however your deal is worded, and whoever you use as an agent, you have got to be willing to stand up to angry contractors, and say: ‘Stop, you are causing a large amount of damage’.”

Other topics discussed at the meetings in Wymondham, Holt and King’s Lynn this week included trends in the land market, changes to abstraction licencing and the efficiency lessons which could be learned from farmers in Australia.

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