The developer behind the controversial wind farm planned for the coast off Dorset has today announced that it is scaling back its plans.
Navitus Bay Development Ltd said that the northernmost ‘top triangle’ of the development will be removed, meaning the site, in places, will now be 3.8km further offshore than previously announced.
It says the move will reduce the visual impact of the plans. It is the second time the boundary has moved back.
The changes see the wind park move further out from Christchurch, now 12 miles instead of 10, while it will be 13 miles from Bournemouth, rather than 12.
The distance from Poole changes from 12.5 miles to 13, but at Swanage the turbines will remain nine miles from the shore.
However, opposition groups say it changes nothing.
Philip Dewhurst, Poole and Christchurch Bays Association spokesman, said: “This is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
“Even with these tweaks, Navitus will still be too big, too visible from our shores and too damaging to our tourism and boating economies.
“We will carry on the fight in the hope that sanity prevails and this hugely expensive white elephant is scrapped.
“The UK already has more offshore wind farms than the rest of Europe put together; Navitus is a farm too far.”
The association’s technical expert, Bill Hoodless, added: “This 10 per cent reduction is totally insignificant when compared to the need for an 85 per cent reduction just to meet the government’s Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment.”
Navitus Bay says that in locations such as the Isle of Wight, Lymington and Christchurch, the change will “substantially increase the distance of the nearest turbine from the shore”.
In places such as Swanage and Durlston Head, it says that “the horizontal spread of turbines on the horizon will be considerably reduced, and the change to the shape of the wind park will also open up a clear gap between the southern coast of the Isle of Wight and the development”.
Dr Andrew Langley of Challenge Navitus said: “We are still awaiting full details, but the changes to the plan appear to be marginal and go nowhere near far enough to convince people that this disastrous proposal won’t have the damaging impacts that so many fear.
“The threats to the environment, tourism, birds and navigation remain almost unchanged, and the onshore disruption will be the same. If a wind farm this size and so close to the coastline had been proposed at the outset we would still have been strongly opposed to the scheme.
“The turbines would be just as close to Swanage and the Jurassic coast World Heritage Site as before and the impacts on them are still significant.
“The proposal would need a far more radical rethink to address the issues raised in consultation, and it remains a bad plan in completely the wrong area.”
Cllr John Beesley, Leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, said: “We are disappointed that we were not shown these revised proposals at the most recent consultation stage. All the councils in the area are working together to obtain accurate information from the developers, Eneco. We cannot comment on these revisions until we have seen the final proposals, along with details of how these changes mitigate the visual and economic impacts outlined in earlier proposals from the developers.”
It will mean that the park will now cover an area of 155 sqkm, compared to 175 sqkm.
The maximum number of turbines will be reduced from 218 to 194.
Mike Unsworth, project director at Navitus Bay, said: “We have always listened to and acted upon the feedback we receive from our public consultations and our statutory consultees.
“We hope that local residents and statutory consultees who have expressed concern about the wind park will welcome today’s announcement. The boundary change is significant, and balances the need to reduce visual impact while ensuring that the project continues to make an important contribution to sustainable energy generation in the UK and to the local economy in the shape of jobs and investment.
“As we move towards submitting our final application for planning permission, we believe that this latest boundary change is a positive step, ensuring that the project reflects local views while bringing considerable benefits to the region.
“We believe we now have an application that reflects in-depth local consultation and will, if granted planning permission, bring enormous benefits to the local region and to the UK as a whole.”
Navitus Bay plans to submit its planning application to the Government in the spring and says that the park would generate enough electricity to power 710,000 homes.
It has now produced new photomontages reflecting the changes.