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“Irresponsible and shameless exploitation” – new tourism chief takes stand against Navitus Bay

The organisation representing tourism businesses based in Bournemouth has slammed the Navitus Bay wind farm – branding it an “irresponsible and shameless exploitation of a unique location”.

In a statement attacking the proposals, Bournemouth Tourism Management Board also said it was furious that EDF Energy, one of the backers of the Navitus Bay project, was “completely disregarding the environmental and consequential economic impact on the local area and refusing to compensate for the multi-million pound damage local businesses face”.

BTMB’s new chairman Des Simmons, who is MD of property firm Bournecoast, added: “It is totally unacceptable that Navitus Bay’s consortium, led by Elect-ricite de France (EDF Energy), is refusing to acknowledge or meet its environmental and economic obligations.

“It wants to turn England’s beautiful, unspoilt Poole Bay into an industrial landscape and destroy Bournemouth’s vital tourism business to boot.

“The only reason for building the vast wind farm so close to shore is for EDF Energy and its Dutch partner Eneco to save money and profiteer.

“To rub salt into the wound they are not even prepared to discuss compensation with the tourism businesses around Poole Bay for the massive loss in income that Navitus Bay’s own research is predicting.

“They are compensating fishermen as well as boat and dive charter companies; why not other tourism businesses?”

As previously reported in the Daily Echo, Bournemouth’s tourism industry believes that the predicted drop-off in visitors, based on a Navitus survey, could lead to the town losing £100 million a year.

It is demanding a marketing budget of £15 million a year to help combat that – so far no compensation has been offered by Navitus, it says.

BTMB says it will fight to save the 2,500 jobs that it fears will be lost across all business sectors during the five-year construction phase. It says that 10 jobs will be lost for every one created.

Vice chairman, John Green, who is MD of Hot Rocks restaurant, said: “Such negligent action will leave Bournemouth picking up the pieces for the mass job losses that Navitus Bay will irrefutably cause.”

Yesterday, wind farm supporters East Dorset Friends of the Earth accused councils of making “exaggerated or spurious” claims about the impact on tourism, while also saying it had misgivings over the planning process.

Spokesman Dr Martin Price said: “Serious consideration of the effects of not building the wind farm appears to be absent and we have not been invited to appear before the panel to make the cost-benefit case for the wind farm proposal at the subject-specific hearings.

“It is a pity that local councils have decided to spend our Council Tax money opposing a scheme which is part of their own Renewable Energy Strategy.

“Instead, they appear to be aligning themselves with self-interest groups who are making exaggerated or spurious claims about the potential negative effects of a wind farm upon tourism and the local environment.“

The Planning Inspectorate is due to conclude the examination process next month before recommending whether the Secretary of State should approve or dismiss the project, which could see up to 194 turbines, up to 200m high, built off the coast.

Sector ‘will not be significantly impacted’

MIKE Unsworth, project director for Navitus Bay, inset, said: “Our shareholders, both EDF Energy and Eneco, have a long-track record of working with local communities on major energy projects and understand the concerns flagged in Bournemouth.

“That’s precisely why the project team has undertaken an unprecedented four rounds of public consultation and provided extensive and independent insight into both the potential impacts and benefits the wind park could bring. Numerous independent studies have found that tourism in Bournemouth, and anywhere across the coast, will not be significantly impacted by Navitus Bay.

“This conclusion is supported by evidence collected from coastal towns and resorts near existing offshore wind parks – many of which are closer to shore than Navitus Bay would be.

“We have already offered the nine local councils a £15million fund that they can run to mitigate any minor tourism impacts that may occur. What’s more, we will continue to engage with the local business community based in Bournemouth, to ensure the local supply chain opportunities the wind park can offer are maximised.”