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Developers of a massive wind farm off the Isle of Wight have misled the public over its appearance and impact on the economy, according to campaigners who argue it will ruin views from some of Britain’s finest coastline.
Plans for the Navitus Bay offshore wind farm, a vast development of up to 194 turbines that has sparked fierce local opposition, were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on Thursday.
Campaigners have written to the Inspectorate claiming it should not even consider the application as it stands because the developer “failed to consult adequately”.
Dr Andrew Langley of the Challenge Navitus group claims the consultation provided “incomplete, unclear and even misleading information”.
Navitus Bay Development Ltd – a joint venture between French energy giant EDF and Eneco of the Netherlands – announced in February it was scaling back the size of the farm in light of opposition during the consultation.
However, Dr Langley said it might have been forced to make further changes had the public been fully appraised of the project.
The revised proposal for the £3bn wind farm would still span 59 square miles. The turbines would be between 580 and 656 feet tall and would be visible from the shore, including from Durlston Head on the Jurassic Coast, just 9 miles away, and the Needles on the Isle of Wight, less than 11 miles away.
Opponents include local Tory MPs Conor Burns and Richard Drax, who have backed Challenge Navitus campaign.
The group fears the wind farm will hit tourism and the local economy and threaten the UNESCO World Heritage site status of the Jurassic Coast.
“England’s beauty spots are important as well as getting renewable energy,” Dr Langley said. “There is thriving local economy – tourism, yachting and sailing – which depends quite significantly on the character of the area. It seems illogical to put that at risk when alternative sites which don’t have the same level of risk are available.”
Onshore there would be disruption along a 22 mile route, which passes through the New Forest and protected areas, while cabling is laid underground.
The complaint to the Planning Inspectorate claims that images of the wind farm, commissioned by the company, “under-represented the visual impact”.
Some were too low resolution or had mistakes while others, while technically accurate, used panoramic shots that give an impression “much smaller than you would perceive in real life,” Dr Langley said.
Challenge Navitus also claims the consultation gave an “incomplete, inconsistent, unrealistic and unclear” picture of the socio-economic impact, failing to highlight the developer’s own survey findings that a third of visitors may stay away during the four-and-a-half year construction period.
But Mike Unsworth, Navitus Bay project director, said that its visualisations were “in strict accordance with the recognised industry standards” and it had “every confidence” in them.
“We strongly defend Navitus Bay’s track record of comprehensive and meaningful public consultation,” he said.
The consultation followed guidelines and legislation and had “clearly detailed” all socio-economic impacts of the project, he said. “The latest findings show the project has the potential to bring £1.62bn to the region over its life time,” he added.
Mr Unsworth said that the assessment had “concluded that, overall, the development will not have a significant impact on tourism” and that the UK government had concluded that the farm would have “no significant adverse impact” on the site’s “Outstanding Universal Value”, which is key to its UNESCO status.
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