Plans to build a wind farm off the Dorset coast came under fire from New Forest district councillors at its development control committee meeting on Wednesday.
UK energy company EDF Energy and Dutch firm Eneco hold the exclusive development rights to the proposed Navitus Bay project, which would provide energy for up to 820,000 homes across the country.
As previously reported in the Journal, 35km of underground cabling is proposed to run from the landfall point at Taddiford Gap, to one of two substation locations close to West Moors and Three Legged Cross, near the Mannington grid connection.
It would pass through Hordle, Tiptoe, Bashley, Hinton, Godwinscroft, Bockhampton and Avon Tyrrell.
When construction is complete, the trenches would be returned to their original state allowing access and farming to resume.
A formal planning application for the wind farm is expected to be made by the end of 2013. The company already has permission to erect a 100m meteorological mast eight miles out to sea off Bournemouth to collect wind data, which will help to inform the design of the farm and provide estimates of the energy it could produce.
Although the planning application will be handled by the National Infrastructure Directorate (NID) due to its substantial scale, an interim report was given to the district’s planning committee.
Planning officer Anna Budge explained that once a formal planning application had been made, the district council would be given the opportunity to make official comments during the consultation period.
But cllr Maureen Holding told members that if the scheme went ahead it would change the seascape forever.
She said: “We have to realise the terrific impact this will have and say do we really want it? Will it bring all the benefits we are told and is it really worth it?”
She added: “It does concern me that people think this is a foregone conclusion and will definitely happen.”
In response, chief planning officer Chris Elliott said: “The government say wind farms are an integral part of its renewable energy plans and we are not able to question that, but we can look at the specific environmental impacts of a proposal that will affect our district.”
Chris Sherrington, project director for Navitus Bay, said: “We have taken the decision to put the cables underground, therefore no new overhead lines would be required for Navitus Bay. After carefully evaluating the nature of the area, its environmental and engineering constraints and our specific technical requirements, we feel this is the best possible route.
“Every effort has been taken to avoid sensitive sites and our continuing focus will be on minimising the environmental impact of the works.
“The route is still subject to rigorous assessment as part of the ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and further statutory consultation. The cable route will be presented at public exhibitions in the autumn, alongside the chosen substation site.”
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