BOURNEMOUTH’S tourism chief still fears a major impact on the town if the wind farm off the coast goes ahead, despite the firm behind it changing its plans.
As reported in the Daily Echo, Navitus Bay, a joint venture between Dutch firm Eneco and EDF Energy, has said that the farm would now be further out to sea and there would be fewer turbines.
But Mark Smith, director of tourism, said that currently the tourism department had to base its views on a study done for an offshore wind farm in Scotland – and he fears it could cost Bournemouth £20 million a year and see more than 500 people lose their jobs.
Mr Smith added: “We note the changes made to the proposal that now form part of the pre-application consultation, however we are still waiting for an assessment of the economic impact that the wind farm would have on the town.
“The council requested this information from Eneco back in November 2011 and we have still not received it.
“Until this vital assessment is carried out by Eneco we cannot be sure what kind of impact this proposal would have on our tourist industry.
“At the moment we can only base our views on the most comprehensive research, which was undertaken in Scotland, into the impact of visible wind farms on an area’s income from visitors – this indicated a potential reduction in visitors of between one per cent and seven per cent.
“If this was the case in Bournemouth this would represent a potential loss to the county’s economy of £20million a year and place over 500 jobs at risk.”
Navitus Bay said the changes would see the park sited 12 miles from Bournemouth, rather than 10. There would be a maximum of 218 turbines instead of 333.
Project director Mike Unsworth said the formal socio-economic assessment would be completed in the first half of 2013.
He said he would be meeting with Mark Smith again in the New Year to discuss the content of surveys for locals, businesses and visitors. Mr Unsworth said that other research had indicated that wind farms brought economic benefits rather than drawbacks and he said £100 million worth of contracts would be up for grabs.
Earlier this week opposition group Challenge Navitus said the changes were “minor” and would make little difference – it called for the wind farm to be at least 14 miles out to sea in line with government guidance.
Mr Unsworth added: “We’re moving the north boundary three kilometres further offshore and reducing the maximum number of turbines by 35 per cent – I would describe that as significant, not minor.”
Eight public consultation events will take place in February. The exhibitions will display new visualisations as well as an interactive 3D model of the site and onshore cable route. Dates and locations will be announced in the New Year.