Sheltering barge angers north Norfolk fishermen

A giant barge building a windfarm off north Norfolk has run into trouble with local fishermen after taking shelter from the gales.

The Swan is a quarter of the way through installing 88 turbines at the Sheringham shoal - but has had to move off site due to the current bad weather.

Fishermen say that when it strayed off its regular route it could have damaged their gear and are seeking meetings to discuss compensation and better liaison.

Dave Chambers, chairman of the Norfolk Independent Fishermen's Association, which represents nine boats between Morston and Bacton, said: 'The barge has gone over our gear twice. The lads have had a fairly hard year and are working later than they normally would trying to grab the last pots.'

There were agreements over working areas, and if the barge strayed off it was in danger of damaging or dragging shanks of pots worth �1200.

'I have had some compensation for the first time it happened, but this is not about the money - it is about getting the operators to talk to us.'

Plant manager for the windfarm project Einar Stomsvag said the barge had retreated to Yarmouth harbour during the bad weather but had to leave again to find a safer haven. It navigated its way back to just off Sheringham and thought it had avoided any marked fishing gear. - but had been contacted by concerned fishermen.

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'We have apologised, will compensate any damage and we have set up a meeting for this weekend, but this was an extraordinary situation,' he added.

The barge would take care when it moved back to the site, which as not likely to be until Friday night or Saturday. and would take care of any fishing gear it found.

Work on the turbines was on schedule with 20 of the 88 foundations, and one of the two cable links to land, completed, he added.

The �1bn Sheringham Shoal project will generate enough power for 220,000 homes when it begins operation early in 2012.