From a Member of Parliament to ordinary residents, a marathon meeting saw people get the chance to have their say on the Navitus Bay wind farm plans today.
A broad range took their chance to address a panel from the Planning Inspectorate, which will ultimately make the recommendation to the Secretary of State as to whether the controversial scheme, which would see as many as 194 turbines as high as 200 metres, should get the green light.
More than 80 people were registered to speak at the open floor hearing at the BIC.
While supporters pointed to green energy targets and relying less on fossil fuels and energy from abroad, objectors looked to visual impact, economic worries, bird migration, shipping, noise and health worries and the onshore impact of cabling.
Objections came loud and clear from Bournemouth – from one of its MPs, Tobias Ellwood, councillors and the tourism industry.
Mr Ellwood said: “We (Bournemouth) do tourism, we excel at it; Bournemouth was built on tourism following the development of the railway line in 1870. There’s no doubt there will be an impact on tourism.
“The beautiful natural, unspoilt seafront is our trump card. This bay deserves to have protected status matching that of inland waterways.”
Andy Woodland, manager of the Sandbanks Hotel, spoke on behalf of the Bournemouth Tourism Management Board.
He said that a 20 per cent reduction in visitors, predicted by Navitus Bay’s own survey, would be devastating.
“This figure is at least double the reduction that Bournemouth hotels felt during the last recession.
“The impact of a 20 per cent fall would put all individually-owned hotels in a very precarious position and would certainly stop any inward investment for at least five to eight years,” he added.
Bournemouth councillors, including leader Cllr John Beesley, spoke about their concerns on the town and, in particular, its tourism industry.
Cllr Beesley said that the wind farm would have a ‘devastating’ effect on the local economy and the natural environment.
Cllr Barry Goldbart added that Bournemouth’s reputation as a top resort ‘can’t possibly be enhanced, but only greatly harmed by the construction and operation of this huge wind farm project’.
Residents, who said that they were representing nobody other than themselves, took their chance to speak.
Several said that alternative energy sources had to be looked at in the battle against climate change.
But others said that the proposed wind farm was in the wrong place, with one saying: “Can you imagine Australia putting a wind farm next to the Great Barrier Reef?”
Highcliffe resident Michael Laver said he had moved from Clacton-on-Sea, where a wind farm has ‘blighted’ the seascape and added: “We are on the brink of an act of historic vandalism.”
But Dr Martin Price, of East Dorset Friends of the Earth, said that local authorities coming out against the wind farm went against national and local environment policy.
Dr Price later said: “Increased frequency and severity of storm events is a predicted consequence of climate change.”
Also in favour was Chris Lisher, chief executive and harbourmaster at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, who said: “We need this wind farm to go ahead and bring with it significant local investment.”
But Roy Pointer, chairman of Poole and Christchurch Bays Association, which represents 50 residents’ associations, said: “We contend that there is no compelling need for this project.”
Dr Andrew Langley, of opposition group Challenge Navitus, added: “The proposal is in the busiest recreational marine area in this country. The economic value of sensitive land and seascapes was ignored.”
Representatives from the east of Dorset and the New Forest centred their concerns on the disruption that onshore cabling would cause.
Peter Holden, chairman of West Moors Parish Council, said the cabling would go through some ‘very well-used’ areas.
Cllr Ann Warman, of East Dorset District Council, said it would ‘desecrate’ the landscape.
The planning process moves into issue-specific hearings and site visits over the coming months.
The Planning Inspectorate will go away to make its recommendation to the Secretary of State, who has the final say, in the spring.
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