Plans for dozens of wind turbines in the sea, just over 8 miles off the Needles, could have a major visual impact on visitors to the Island landmark according to the most recent environmental information.
The information forms part of the fourth and final phase of consultation over the NavitusBay project, which could see up to 218 turbines, of up to 177m tall, in an area off the Island’s south west coastline.
A community consultation document has been published, which contains all environmental information available up to now, allowing key stakeholders to comment further on the project.
Other findings in the report show that the turbines would have a major to moderate visual impact on walkers at Tennyson’s Monument, either at day or night, and a major-moderate to moderate impact at Mottistone and Limerstone Down.
Recreational walkers along public rights of way up to 20km from the proposals, and users of the burial at sea site are predicted to experience major to major-moderate impacts. And major-moderate to moderate visual impacts are predicted to be experienced by residents in coastal settlements, visitors to beaches, cyclists, ferry passengers in close proximity and recreational sailors in areas up to 15km from the wind park.
Potential impact on sea life revealed
Surveys recorded a variety of fish species including brill, cod, Dover sole, sand eels, sea bass and mackerel. Shellfish including brown crab, spider crab, common cuttlefish and common whelk were also found. In conclusion, the report says the impact on fish ecology is considered to be not significant, after appropriate mitigation.
The assessment also considered the potential effects on marine animals, sea turtles and basking sharks. Although surveys show the offshore development area is not an important habitat for marine mammals, key species including bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise and harbour and grey seals were potentially present in the area. The report concludes, however, that after mitigation, the impact on sea life would not be significant.
There would be a negligible impact on all species of seabirds, which were studied for two years as part of the assessment, apart from some concerns about a potential ‘significant’ impact on gannets colliding with the structures. Further work is being carried out with Natural England, which is also looking at the impact on nightjar populations.
Effect on commercial fishing
During the construction of the turbines, the report says there would be a moderate impact on fishing vessels using towed gear, and major impacts on rod and line vessels.
There would still be moderate impacts to fishing vessels whilst the turbines are in action, and during the decommissioning phase.
Impact on tourism studied
The report considered the impact on tourism covering a 20km zone inland from the coastline and interviews were held with local tourism businesses. The project was considered as having a minor or moderate beneficial impact on tourism, with 86% of summer season visitors saying the development would not put them off visiting the region in the future. However, some said they would be likely to visit elsewhere during the turbine’s construction, due to disturbance or pollution, as well as during the operational phase because of the turbines.
In conclusion, the report said that there would be a moderate impact of the wind park during operation and that could be reduced to a minor impact by building a visitor centre to promote the project, as well as make funding available to local authorities to deliver measures to promote local tourism.
Read the report in full
You can find out the impact on other areas and read the report in full by clicking here
As part of the final phase of public consultation, which comes to an end on 11 October 2013, a public exhibition is being held on Saturday 14 September at Medina Leisure Centre.
The company said all comments and responses would be taken into account. A final decision on the proposals is not likely before 2015.