Offshore Wind Farm Construction and Tourism

Our recent work for Scottish Power Renewables assessed the empirical evidence on the relationship between offshore wind farm construction and the local tourism sector in England. This study found that the construction of an offshore wind farm does not impact the local tourism economy.

The study analysed indicators of the tourism industry in 11 comparable cases, including one location adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and one location adjacent to a National Park, to identify any relationship between offshore wind farms and changes in visitor behaviour or spending during the construction periods

Coastal Districts

For the study we looked for evidence that the construction of an offshore wind farm, and the associated infrastructure such as cabling and the onshore substation, had an impact on the performance of the tourism sector where this activity took place.

If offshore wind farm construction were to impact the local tourism sector, it would be expected that the sector’s performance during this time period would be worse than the long term average. As shown below, in the majority of cases tourism employment in the local district actually performed better during the construction period than the long term average.

For example, in East Riding of Yorkshire tourism-related employment grew by 11.8% during the construction of Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Farm. However, between 2009 and 2018, the average level of growth in employment in East Riding of Yorkshire was 2.8%. Therefore, tourism-related employment increased by 9.0% more than the long-term average during the construction period

The local tourism sectors did not underperform during the construction period compared to their long term average

Another way in which the impact of offshore wind farm construction could manifest would be that if the tourism sector in the local district performed differently than the wider region during this period. The performance of the tourism economy in each of these districts is affected by the same factors which affect the tourism economy in the region. For example, consumer preferences, weather and currency values are likely to affect the region as a whole. More localised issues, such as the impacts associated with the construction of an offshore wind farm, are likely to be felt at a district level.

This analysis, as shown below, found that of the 9 areas considered 4 performed better than their wider region during the construction period and 5 performed worse.

For example, in the Canterbury District during the construction of the Kentish Flats Extension tourism-related employment grew 6% more than the wider South East. During the construction of Walney Phase 1 and 2, tourism-related employment in the North West grew 2.6% more than in Barrow-in-Furness.

Landscape Designations

The study was done in relation to the development of Scottish Power’s East Anglia Offshore Windfarms and there will be some onshore construction activity in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. Therefore particular attention was given to how the tourism sector fared in areas with a landscape designation (e.g. National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

There are two comparable areas in England, landscape designation areas that have visibility of an offshore wind farm and which had onshore construction activity take place during the construction phase of these wind farms. These are:

  • Norfolk Coast AONB, which is linked to multiple offshore windfarms; and
  • South Downs National Park, which is linked to Rampion Offshore Wind Farm

Norfolk Coast AONB

Analysis of the trends in tourism related employment in North Norfolk found that, despite onshore construction during the majority of the study period, employment within the local area reflected and outperformed the wider and regional average.

South Downs National Park

The Rampion OWF construction period started in 2015 and ended in 2018. There was onshore construction activity in three local authority districts, namely Adur, Horsham and Worthing. During this time, employment in the three local authority districts grew by 8%, compared to 5% in West Sussex and 2% across the South East

Local tourism-related employment followed the trends of the wider region during the construction period of offshore wind farms

The analysis of the Norfolk Coast AONB and the South Downs National Park found that there was no relationship between the performance of the visitor economy in areas of landscape designation and the construction of onshore infrastructure of offshore wind farms.


The purpose of this analysis was to identify evidence of the construction of offshore wind farms having an impact on the local tourism economy. No evidence was found to support this. Instead, it was found that areas, including those with landscape sensitivities, were not impacted by the construction activities of offshore wind farms.

Further Reading

The full report can be read through the link below:

Posted 18.11.20