THE construction of a proposed wind farm off Dorset could put the Jurassic Coast’s World Heritage status at risk, according to a planning chief.
On Friday, members of Dorset County Council’s planning committee will meet to discuss and agree the proposed contents of a Local Impact Report that it is required to put together for the Planning Inspectorate ahead of a decision being made over the Navitus Bay project.
While recognising the potential energy supply benefits upon completion and economic boons during the construction phase, a report from head of planning Don Gobbett warns that tourism could suffer, the visual impact for residents could be unacceptable and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site could be put on an ‘at risk’ register.
Currently, it shares a place on the list with sites such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Acropolis in Greece and the Taj Mahal in India.
David Lloyd, of opposition group Challenge Navitus, said: “It’s a very real possibility.
“What we want is for the UK government to put in an exclusion zone where no development is allowed around World Heritage sites, like has been done in France.
“We’re looking for Dorset County Council to come out and strongly oppose this in line with public opinion.”
Project director Mike Unsworth has told the Daily Echo that the next round of consultation in February will give residents far more detail than previously.
A spokesman for Navitus Bay added: “We understand and appreciate the significance of the World Heritage Site status to the local community, which is why we have met with the Jurassic Coast steering group to explain our plans in considerable detail.
“We are in the process of producing new visuals and photo montages that will help them to arrive at a better understanding of what we propose for Navitus Bay so that this important debate can progress in a fully informed way.”
Navitus was awarded the rights to develop the off-shore wind farm by landowners the Crown Estate in 2009 and proposes to site it in a 76-square mile zone. It claims it will create enough power to provide electricity for between 615,000 and 820,000 homes and will sit eight miles off Swanage and 10 miles off Bournemouth.
The number and height of turbines has not yet been decided, but will be between 150 larger turbines – as high as 210 metres – and 333 smaller turbines.
Because of the scale of the project the decision on whether it goes ahead will be taken by the National Infrastructure Director-ate of the Planning Inspectorate.