December 16, 2012

Wind farm impact on Jurassic Coast to be examined, firm pledges

By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News | 15 December 2012 |

The developer behind a planned offshore wind farm on the south coast of England says it will look to see how it can “mitigate” the concerns of campaigners.

Questions have been raised about the impact on the view and cultural significance of its location.

It will be off a stretch of coastline known as the Jurassic Coast.

Navitus Bay Development has revised its plans – the farm will be smaller and further out – but local MP Richard Drax said they were still not sufficient.

The coastline is one of just eight in the world to be awarded World Heritage Site (WHS) status by Unesco, and concerns have been raised over whether the title would be revoked if the wind farm goes ahead.

The site currently attracts 16m tourists a year to the area, according to its official website.

The 95 mile (152km) long Jurassic Coast gets its name because some 175 million years of geology are visible in its rocks.

218 turbines

In an interview with the BBC, Navitus Bay Development director Mike Unsworth said “regular discussions” had taken place with the local WHS steering group about maintaining the coastline’s status.

“The feedback we’ve had is that the designation is for its natural geology,” he said.

“They’ve said it’s unlikely that [the WHS] designation will be impacted by the development. But what they have also said is the setting of the WHS – in terms of how you view it or what you view from – is a concern to them. We continue to look at how we can mitigate that.”

Following various criticisms, the developers now propose that the wind farm, known as Navitus Bay, should only have 218 turbines no more than 200m (600ft) high.

The firm’s original plans were for 335 turbines up to 210m high.

Mr Unsworth said the site would now also be 3km (1.8 miles) further away from Bournemouth than previously planned, in order to minimise its visual impact.

The new proposals will be put back out to public consultation in 2013.

‘Too close’

Mr Drax, Conservative MP for south Dorset, said there were still problems with the revised plans.

“The key problem, I think… is the fact it’s so close to the coastline,” he said.

“The recommendation from the EU is about 23km (14 miles). This will now be about 14km (9 miles) – it’s just too close. Despite the fact there will be less of them we are still going to see these vast structures off one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.”

But Mr Unsworth said: “What I said to Richard [Drax] was, come to the next round of consultations, have a look at the new photo montages, take a view at that point and then provide us with fresh feedback.”

Meanwhile, the Corporation of Trinity House, which looks after sea farers, had advised that the farm could affect a popular navigational channel.

The navigational channel is by a lighthouse called Hurst Point which is used by local boats and fishermen, said Trinity House.

In response, Mr Unsworth said: “We have moved the northern boundary further south which provided greater navigational safety for recreational sea users.”

The Navitus Bay project is a partnership between energy firms Eneco Wind (UK) and EDF.

The construction of the wind farm could create 1,000 jobs and bring £100m to the local economy, the developers claim.

Mike Unsworth was interviewed on BBC Radio Solent programme The Big Dorset Brunch.

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