NEW research shows the Navitus Bay wind park could “devastate” the local tourist industry, it is claimed.
Impact assessments carried out by the wind park developer state that up to a third of all visitors could be deterred from holidaying in the area during the three year construction phase.
And once the wind farm is built and in operation, 14 per cent of visitors say the loss of view would prevent them from returning.
They said concerns about noise and the industrialisation of the seascape would influence their decision to stay away.
Currently Dorset’s tourism sector supports 40,295 full and part-time jobs. Mark Smith, pictured, Bournemouth’s head of tourism, said a drop in the visitor numbers could mean thousands of people losing their jobs.
“We’re very concerned at the figures that Navitus are forecasting and the dip in tourism as a result of this work,”he said.
“If these figures that they are using are right, it would devastate tourism businesses in Dorset and result in massive unemployment.”
He said he was disappointed Navitus had not worked with them to carry out the research and that they had only recently released the findings, when some of the surveys were carried out during 2012.
Mike Francis, president of the Bournemouth Tourism Management Board, said a drop in visitor numbers would not just be bad for hoteliers but would have knock-on effects for restaurants, shops, taxi firms and householders who take in foreign language students.
“Once you start losing tourism and interest in tourism and visiting our area, we’re going to lose a lot of jobs,” he said.
“A third of visitors say they’re going to stay away during that three year construction period. Who says they are going to come back?
"They will find somewhere else to go surely.”
But Navitus Bay said the research revealed a “degree of optimism or neutrality” about the impact on tourism and said that wind turbines had boosted tourism in some locations, including Great Yarmouth.
Mike Unsworth, project director at Navitus Bay, said: “The evidence we’ve gathered has shown that tourism is largely unaffected by projects of this nature and in some instances enhanced.
“We’d like to replicate the tourism success enjoyed by other offshore wind park locations in the UK and provide support to enhance the region’s tourism offer – which may be through a visitor centre or funding additional tourism resources.”
A survey of local tourism businesses revealed that 54 per cent felt their business would not be adversely affected, while 40 per cent felt they would experience a low, medium or high impact and six per cent believed the wind farm will boost business.
Seven language schools also responded to the survey. Four said the project would have an adverse impact on their school and the other three said it would not.
Findings on website
NAVITUS Bay carried out several different surveys in order to assess the potential impact of the wind farm.
A Tourism Business Survey was conducted during March and April this year, in which 302 tourism businesses were interviewed.
Two visitor surveys were conducted by TSE research – one in Summer 2012 when 1,520 visitors were interviewed face-to-face at six different locations and one in Spring 2013 when 507 visitors
were interviewed at the same locations.
Their findings are in a 500-page document which is on their website.
Navitus Bay Development is about to embark on another round of consultation on its plans to build a wind farm 12 miles off the Bournemouth coast, which could include up to 218 turbines, each up to 650ft high. Consultation sessions are at:
- Lymington Community Centre, 2pm to 8pm, September 13
- New Milton Community Centre, 2pm to 8pm, September 20
- Captain’s Club, Christchurch, 2pm to 8pm, September 12
- St Edward’s Church Hall, Swanage, 2pm to 8pm, September 17
- Poole Lighthouse, 2pm to 8pm, September 18
- West Moors Memorial Hall, 2pm to 8pm, September 19
- Bournemouth International Centre, 10am to 4pm, September 21