UNESCO has now responded to the government about the Navitus Bay project, raising serious concerns over its impacts on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
A study undertaken by the scientific arm of UNESCO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), concluded that:
‘Any potential impacts from the Project on this natural property are in contradiction to the overarching principle of the World Heritage Convention as stipulated in its Article 4, as the completion of the Project would result in the property being presented and transmitted to future generations in a form that is significantly different from what was there at the time of inscription and until today.
‘Specifically, the property will change from being located in a natural setting that is largely free from man-made structures to one where its setting is dominated by man-made structures.’
The government accepted a ‘duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage’ when the site was designated.
IUCN also concluded that: ‘the Project will have a significant impact on the natural setting of the property, in that it would adversely impact on important views from the property, including views from the main visitor centre at Durlston Castle towards the Isle of Wight, where the Project would replace the Isle of Wight as the dominant feature on the horizon.
‘This is likely to significantly impact on visitors’ experience and appreciation of the property in its wider natural setting, which could in turn compromise the long term sustainability of the management of the property, through a loss of revenue and reduced opportunities to present the property in its natural setting to a wide audience.’
The Challenge Navitus opposition group say this is a major step in the assessment of the proposal.
A spokesman said: ‘It is significant that an independent, international conservation body has reached these conclusions.
‘When faced with problems over wind farms in the vicinity of Mont St. Michel in France, the French government protected the site by excluding wind farms from the region.
‘We hope that our government will take similar action here to honour its commitments to UNESCO. In IUCN’s words, “…it appears that there is ample opportunity to relocate the Project to other offshore Round 3 zones where any adverse impacts on the property and other sensitive coastal areas… could be entirely avoided. “‘
Members of the public have until 23 June to register with the Planning Inspectorate to have a say on the scheme.
Response from Navitus Bay Development Limited
Mike Unsworth, Project Director at Navitus Bay, said: ‘We are aware of the letter from UNESCO to the Department for Culture Media and Sport asking them to consider the IUCN interim comments.
‘We will be seeking further clarification as the interim comments are not aligned with the independent heritage impact assessment provided in the Environmental Statement or the conclusion of DCMS provided in February 2014, which stated: “Our overall conclusion, on the basis of the evidence presented so far, is that while the proposed wind farm will have some impact on the World Heritage property, there should be no significant impact on Outstanding Universal Value.
‘We would like to make clear that while the letter from UNESCO asks DCMS to consider the IUCN interim comments, it doesn’t reflect UNESCO’s views.
‘The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site has been inscribed on the World Heritage List on the basis of natural criterion (viii) “to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.”
‘The area protected is limited to the shoreline itself, and the nearest Navitus Bay turbine will be located 14.3 kilometres from the coast. Work completed by independent experts concluded that there would be no impact on the geology that is protected.
‘The area around a designation does not have a protection zone around it and we strongly believe that Navitus Bay, providing significant economic benefits and low carbon energy, will not impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site.
‘We note that, although the Jurassic Coast site was also originally nominated under Criterion (vii) ‘exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance’, the site was NOT inscribed on the World Heritage List for these qualities by UNESCO.’
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