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Dorset Jurassic Coast’s world heritage status ‘not in immediate danger’ says minister as Planning Inspectorate examine Navitus Bay proposals

A Government minister has reassured Dorset MPs that UNESCO has not indicated it will withdraw the Jurassic Coast’s world heritage status – should the Navitus Bay Wind Park go ahead.

Earlier this year, a letter from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the Government raised concerns England’s only natural heritage site would be dominated by man-made structures.

During an adjournment debate in the House of Commons this week, Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pointed out that the letter was not the opinion of UNESCO, which maintains world heritage sites, but that of IUCN – an advisory body.

Conservative MPs have been openly vocal against the controversial proposals to erect 200 turbines off the Dorset coast.

“That status, under article four of the world heritage convention on 1972, obliges the Government to protect, conserve, present and transmit for future generations the sites identified as being part of the cultural heritage” said Bournemouth West MP Connor Burns.

“In its comments on the environmental impact assessment, the IUCN raised a number of concerns about the potential impact of the proposed wind farm on the Jurassic Coast world heritage site, particularly regarding the unique processes that shape the Jurassic Coast and contribute to its outstanding universal value.”

In May, the Planning Inspectorate accepted Navitus Bay’s proposals for consideration – while residents have raised concerns at public consultations held across Dorset.

The National Trust has also officially opposed the Navitus Bay proposals.

Mr Vaizey responded to Mr Burns’ concerns about what the Government would do to protect the world heritage status of the Dorset coast.

“The proposed wind farm development has not to date been examined by the world heritage committee, so neither the world heritage committee nor UNESCO has an official view on the potential impact of the Navitus Bay site on the world heritage site” said the minister.

“Currently, the world heritage property is not considered by UNESCO to be under threat, and it is not in immediate danger of losing its world heritage status.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax questioned the Crown Estate’s choice of site for the development.

Mr Drax stated there were several other sites that could have been chosen for the controversial wind farm, further out to sea. Navitus Bay would see turbines built around 13 miles from the coast at Poole.

“The Crown Estate identified eight other sites totalling about 225,000 sq km that would be nowhere near the land and that certainly would not damage this fantastic site” said Mr Drax. “Why on earth did the Crown Estate choose this most special site, which we are trying to protect?

“The site was chosen because it is the closest to land, and it is all about the money. The other sites are far further out and would cost the company millions of pounds more.”

Mr Vaizey recommended the Crown Estate and the concerned MPs discuss the choice of site, but admitted that financial benefit was clearly a factor.

“I am not close to the planning application itself and do not know the technical considerations that Navitus has made” he said.

“Clearly money, and the return on capital that it hopes to achieve, will be a factor, but as I understand it – the Crown Estate is the landlord. It should be encouraged to enter a dialogue with my honourable friends, who represent their constituents’ and the nation’s interests so ably on the matter, and I hope it will do so.”