Opponents of the Navitus Bay wind park have exaggerated the size of the turbines when viewed from the Dorset coastline, local environmental groups claim.
The wind farm proposal, which is still undergoing examination by the Planning Inspectorate, has received widespread criticism, mainly relating to the possible impact on tourism and the local economy. Environmental groups Agenda 21 and East Dorset Friends of the Earth argue that the visual impact has been blown out of proportion by the anti-wind farm lobby.
“The pictures that have been distributed widely to the public convey the message that the wind farm will look horrible when in fact it will be a little fringe on the horizon,” said Tony Hamilton from the Poole branch of Agenda 21, referring to representations of the turbines in local media.
A Bournemouth Borough Council report released last month estimated that Bournemouth would suffer economic losses of £100 million a year due to reduced tourism because of the impact on the sea view. Council leader John Beesley called the visual impacts “unacceptable” and said that the coastline would be “devastated by this intrusive development”.
“Rather than Bournemouth playing this up to such an extent, they should be looking at ways they can use the wind farm to encourage tourism”
According to Angela Pooley from East Dorset Friends of the Earth, the wind farm could actually have the opposite effect and be used as a way to boost tourism. “In Great Yarmouth and areas in Scotland which have wind farms, they’ve proved the complete opposite to be true. One hotel gives its guests binoculars because they want to see it. Rather than Bournemouth playing this up to such an extent, they should be looking at ways they can use the wind farm to encourage tourism.”
Tony Hamilton agreed that it is “very unlikely, from evidence from other wind farms, that it will have any effect on tourism”. He mentioned Llandudno, home to Wales’ largest offshore wind farm, as an example: “It’s a beautiful place with beautiful scenery and yet they say it hasn’t affected their tourism.” The 160-turbine Gwynt y Môr wind farm, though smaller than the Navitus Bay proposed project, is closer to the coast.
Critics, including Bournemouth MPs Tobias Ellwood and Conor Burns, allege that the visual representations offered by the developers – Eneco Wind UK and EDF Energy – are unreliable. The maximum number of turbines will be 194, at a height of 200m, with the nearest turbines lying just over 13 miles away from the coastline. This is after a reduction in the original proposed size of the wind park, announced in February.
The next phase of the examination period will begin on November 18th with a series of issue-specific hearings, including one focusing on visual impact and tourism. The Planning Inspectorate will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for approval or refusal in June next year, with a final decision due in September 2015 on whether the project will go ahead.