LOVE it or loathe it, we need wind power.

That’s the message coming from Friends of the Earth over the proposed Navitus Bay project off the Dorset coast.

The plans, from Eneco and EDF, could see up to 300 turbines around 10 miles off Bournemouth and about eight miles off Swanage.

It has split opinion, with opposition group Challenge Navitus mounting a fervent campaign against it, saying it will be inefficient, spoil views and be detrimental to the environment.

Now, Friends of the Earth has spoken out to support the idea in principle, but has urged everyone, for or against the 78-square-mile farm, to have their say and listen to all views.

They gathered on Bournemouth seafront ahead of a debate at Bournemouth University.

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “In principle, we’re in favour of it. We’re sensitive to the concerns. There are people with concerns that any person that loves nature and the landscape shares.

“In practice we’re waiting for the environmental impact survey to be concluded and that might throw up unexpected things.

“But we think the issues that could come up can be mitigated.

“We’re very keen that there’s good quality discussion with local communities.

“We have to set it in context of climate change.”

Project director Mike Unsworth added: “My taking part in the debate is primarily to represent the facts and the interests of the project and the benefits that arise from it.”

After the debate, Andrew Langley, from Challenge Navitus, said: “There are always compromises to be made in general policy on the environment.

“We’re passionately interested in the environment as well. We want to make sure that the nation makes the best compromises in resolving the issues of renewable energy and we believe that this current proposal is at the bad end of the spectrum, not the good end of the spectrum.”

Nigel Hedges, president of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said the main concern was a figure from Eneco that four per cent of visitors to other areas that had wind farms said they would not return.

“That may seem like a small figure, but to us it could cost us a couple of hotels.

“Working with affiliated sections like BAHA and Bournemouth Tourism, the fact that four per cent of people don’t return is a big concern.

“We’re very happy to play a part in the consultations,” he added.

Bournemouth’s tourism director Mark Smith said: “We are not against wind energy; we just want to ensure that solving one problem doesn’t create another. That would be wrong.

“If Eneco can apply the same high environmental standards in Dorset as they have in Holland, where they ensured they were not damaging the Dutch holiday trade, there are ways forward. But the tourist industry should not pay an unnecessary price for the wind farm.”

An Alternative

A RENEWABLE Energy Conference held at Christchurch Borough Council has concluded that deep geothermal energy would achieve the government’s renewal energy target without the need for wind power.

The conference was convened in the face of proposals for the wind farm off the coast of Dorset.

The deep geothermal method was seen to be able to produce the largest amount of renewable energy.

The conference report concluded that, using today’s technology alone, deep geothermal resources could provide 20 per cent of the UK’s annual average electricity generation capacity requirement and the equivalent of the total annual heat consumption in the UK.

Cllr Margaret Phipps, portfolio holder for environment at Christchurch Borough Council, who chaired the conference, said: “We wanted to look at all renewable energy possibilities so that we wouldn’t solely be relying on environmentally-controversial and visually-intrusive intermittent wind power which, in Dorset, may have detrimental consequences for our World Heritage historic environment.”