The Navitus Bay wind farm will “irrevocably damage the outstandingly beautiful and natural Dorset coast”, according to the leader of Bournemouth Borough Council.
Cllr John Beesley has fired a last salvo as the Planning Inspectorate’s examination of the scheme comes to a close today.
The project, which is a joint venture between EDF Energy and Dutch firm Eneco, has faced vigorous opposition from Bournemouth council, which fears a huge impact on tourism to the tune of £100 million a year if the project is given the go-ahead.
It would see up to 194 turbines, a maximum height of 200 metres, built 13 miles from Bournemouth and Poole; while a lesser ‘mitigation option’ would see 105 turbines a few miles further out.
Today, the council said that it was calling for the Secretary of State, which will make the final decision, to reject it on the grounds that it would cause “irreparable damage to the tourism industry and the beauty of the bay and contravenes national planning policy”.
The council says that the area’s visitor economy is forecast to lose £6.3 billion over the life of the project, with 4,923 people forced out of work.
But it says that French energy giant EDF and Eneco “have failed to acknowledge or provide compensation for the damage it will cause”.
Cllr Beesley said: “Navitus Bay threatens to industrialise and irrevocably damage the 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 dominate Poole Bay.
“The area’s core tourism appeal offering an unspoilt bay with beautiful and natural views, will be lost.
“The lifeblood of local businesses will be sucked away – and the more vulnerable small independent businesses will be worst hit.
“The knock-on effect of EDF Energy’s vast wind farm on our local economy will cause long-term harm.
“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 local people could lose their jobs and almost as many again in the other resorts around Poole Bay.
“Bournemouth’s tourism income will suffer to the tune of £100 million every year. These are the very real and sobering realities Bournemouth residents face if the wind farm is built.
“Navitus Bay hurts Bournemouth to its core.
“The sheer scale, location and risks of this development are unprecedented.
“Never before has a wind farm of this magnitude been proposed that also directly threatens Britain’s premier resort and jeopardises the Jurassic Coast’s status as a World Heritage Site.
“Renewable energy is important but should not need to come at the expense of a unique national asset, local jobs and businesses; nor should it force a thriving tourism economy into reverse.”
Earlier this week, the Daily Echo analysed the position of those for and against the scheme.
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.
“Wind power is already playing a central role in the UK’s energy mix and the public is seeing and feeling the results. The Department of Energy & 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.
“Our application is currently with the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and we’re pleased with how thoroughly the issues have been examined and also by the high level of public engagement.
“Community engagement is essential to us and that’s why we’ve undertaken four rounds of public consultation and provided extensive independent insight into both the potential impacts and benefits the wind park could bring.
“During the examination phase, we have provided a ‘Turbine Mitigation Option’.
“This 630MW option is further offshore, with fewer turbines, and provides a different balance of impacts and benefits to the original 970MW scheme. While this does not replace our original 970MW proposal, it does provide PINS and the Secretary of State with a second option.
“The decision lies with the Secretary of State but we’re confident in our application and believe the scheme would make an important contribution to the UK and communities across the South Coast.”
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.