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MP criticises turbine impact on tourism near Jurassic coastline

Building the world’s biggest offshore wind farms near the Westcountry’s Jurassic coastline will damage the region’s tourism industry, an MP has said.

Robert Syms, Conservative MP for Poole, led criticism of Dutch firm Eneco UK’s plans for the £3.5 billion Navitus Bay Wind Park in a debate in the House of Commons.

The scheme would see 218 turbines built offshore, affecting Dorset and Devon, close to the coastline deemed a World Heritage Site.

Mr Syms, in the debate he secured in Westminster, said offshore wind schemes might be accepted off the North East and Kent coast, but Dorset is an “area of tourism”.

He said: “That’s tourism not only because of the beauty of the county and the beauty of the view, but because of the hard work put in by many thousands of businesses in Dorset South, in Bournemouth and in Poole who promote the area, who invest in the area, and who therefore want to promote the area for tourism.

“I think it’s a great disappointment for them if it does go ahead – as Navitus Bay themselves have acknowledged, it may lead to a reduction in tourism and it’s very important for jobs.”

He added: “There are thousands of jobs that rely on tourism. There will not be many jobs generated by this proposal once it’s built – some people who have to maintain this particular wind farm. But on the whole, this is not a heavy employer.”

The MP also raised concern over noise pollution and the impact on bird life.

“Whatever the merits of onshore wind, this is the wrong place to put it,” he said.

Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, also an ardent opponent, drew comparisons between the Jurassic coast and the Great Barrier Reef – both of which are World Heritage Sites.

He said: “I hate to think what the Australians would say to us if we suggest they put 218 turbines as close as we are suggesting to the Great Barrier Reef. I know exactly what they would say.”

Energy and Business Minister Michael Fallon said he could not prejudice the planning process but said all views would be heard.

Another offshore scheme causing concern is the Atlantic Array, which will see 240 turbines built in the Bristol channel that will be visible from the north Devon coast.