Two tribes at war: as the Navitus Bay planning process comes to an end, what next for EDF’s controversial wind farm?
First mooted at the start of 2010, the wind farm off the Dorset coast has been met with unprecedented opposition for such a project.
The controversy will soon come to a head, as the planning process ends this week.
The arguing will stop, for a time at least, and the Planning Inspectorate will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State to approve or reject the Navitus Bay scheme.
Opposition groups have been organised and professional, but there has been support too – the open floor hearing held at the BIC last year heard wide-ranging views.
Navitus Bay Development Ltd (NBDL) – a partnership between French energy giant EDF and Dutch firm Eneco – wants to build up to 194 turbines, a maximum of 200 metres high and, at their closest, nine miles from Durlston – 13 from Bournemouth and Poole.
A ‘mitigation option’, slated by opponents as being ‘slipped in’ to the process, would see 105 turbines, 11 miles from shore at their closest point.
While supporters have pointed to the need for renewable energy, opponents have raged over a plethora of issues, including visual impact, the effect on the environment and the potential impact on tourism.
Bournemouth Borough Council and organisations such as the Bournemouth Tourism Management Board have lambasted the plans, saying they could cost the industry £100 million a year.
Cllr John Beesley, leader of Bournemouth council, told the Daily Echo: “Navitus Bay threatens to industrialise and irrevocably damage our outstandingly beautiful and natural Dorset coast.
“Nearly 200 giant wind turbines, a third taller than the Isle of Wight as you look out to sea, will monopolise Poole Bay. The area’s core tourism appeal, offering an unspoilt bay with pristine views, will be lost.
“Navitus Bay itself admits that over six million tourists will avoid Bournemouth while the wind farm is constructed. The evidence shows that local businesses will see a 20 per cent downturn in trade; 2,500 locals will lose their jobs.”
Bournemouth’s MPs, Conor Burns and Tobias Ellwood, have echoed those thoughts.
Community opposition has come from the Poole and Christchurch Bays Association, which represents 50 residents’ groups, and Swanage-based Challenge Navitus.
Roy Pointer, chairman of PCBA, said: “When combined with the unprecedented and continually growing opposition to the damage this deeply unpopular project would cause, a decision other than rejection would be wholly wrong.
“Uniquely for a UK wind farm, Navitus Bay is opposed by councils, MPs, environmental groups, tourism business leaders and the vast majority of residents. A record number of people registered with planners to oppose it.”
Dr Andrew Langley, from Challenge Navitus, added: “Our coast, from Portland to the Isle of Wight, is a valuable national asset like the Lake District or Snowdonia. All of these assets are worth taking care of for the future and any development must be sited sympathetically.”
He said that the sea off Dorset was “highly productive” and construction was a “long-term environmental concern”.
Dr Langley also said that the economic benefits had been exaggerated.
But the scheme does have its backers.
Last year, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for South Dorset, Simon Bowkett, and MEP Clare Moody both came out in support and the open floor hearing last year saw a number of people speak in favour.
Angela Pooley, from East Dorset Friends of the Earth, said: “East Dorset Friends of the Earth still genuinely believe that the Navitus Bay wind farm should go ahead and are disappointed with many aspects of the Planning Inspectorate’s process.
“Sadly local councils have been spending our Council Tax money opposing a scheme which is part of their own Renewable Energy Strategy.
“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.”
Poole could stand to gain if its port is used during construction.
Nigel Jacobs, planning policy and implementation manager, Borough of Poole, said: “The council recognises that the wind farm could provide benefits to Poole, such as the creation of new jobs at the port and additional funding for skills training to support the development, investment in the supply chain to enable local companies to win contracts with the developer and biodiversity.
“However, it has concerns over the visual impact of the scheme, the possible detrimental effect on tourism and the potential loss of materials deposited on our beaches caused by changes in wind and tidal movements.”
Mike Unsworth, project director for Navitus Bay, said: “Navitus Bay has the potential to bring up to £1.62bn of economic value to the region and create 1,700 jobs.
“The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s most recent Public Attitudes Tracker revealed overwhelming support, now at 74 per cent, for offshore wind across the country.
“We’re seeing this first-hand, as many local residents, politicians, businesses and environmental groups support the project, which could generate enough low carbon electricity for 700,000 UK households and offset 1,290,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.”
He said that NBDL was pleased with “how thoroughly the issues have been examined and also by the high level of public engagement”.
If the project is given the go-ahead, NBDL hopes that construction will begin in 2017, with the first turbines in operation in 2019 and completion in 2020/21.
But that is notwithstanding the possibility of appeals and judicial reviews, as, whatever the outcome of the planning process, the arguments are likely to rage on for some years to come yet.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding