Conservative Culture Minister Savid Javid has waded into a row over plans for a giant offshore wind farm off the Isle of Wight, arguing it would undermine the World Heritage Site status of the Jurassic Coast if approved.
The Round 3 Nauvitus Bay Wind Park, being developed by EDF Energy and Eneco, would see between 100 and 200 turbines installed off the coastline, delivering a capacity of 630MW to 970MW.
Now it has emerged that Javid wrote to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) earlier this month after speaking to local MP Conor Burns, who has opposed the plans.
In his letter to PINS, Javid urged officials to give “full consideration” to a warning from UNESCO’s advisory body that the project could risk the area’s World Heritage status.
“The [International Union for the Conservation of Nature] IUCN feel that the wind park would significantly impact on visitors’ experience and appreciation of the property in its wider natural setting,” he wrote.
“They assert that the development would put the UK in breach of the World Heritage Convention were it to be built, which has the potential to put the area’s World Heritage Site status at risk. This would, of course, be a highly undesirable outcome.”
Both English Heritage and Natural England, which advise the government, have said the project would not put the World Heritage Status at risk. However, Javid chose not to mention this in his letter to the Planning Inspectorate.
In a separate letter sent to local MP Conor Burns, who has campaigned against the plans, Javid says he has now done “everything possible” within the law to make the planning authorities aware of the potential heritage and tourism impacts of the project.
“English Heritage and Natural England… have both expressed the view that the wind park will not cause significant harm to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site and would not constitute a breach of Article 2 of the World Heritage Convention,” Javid wrote to Burns.
“However, in my letter I urged the Inspectorate to ensure nonetheless that the heritage and tourism implications of the proposals are fully considered.”
It is unclear what impact the letter could have on the plans. Late last year, the developers decided to submit a scaled down planning application for the wind farm, containing only 106 turbines, that will now be considered alongside the original application for the larger 194 turbine scheme.
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