HUNDREDS of Bournemouth residents aired their views on the proposed Navitus Bay wind farm at a meeting on Saturday.
There were speakers for and against the project, but the majority of the 630-strong audience supported the view that it was ‘too big, too close and in the wrong location’.
The nearly three-hour event was organised by Bournemouth council, which is seeking the views of residents in its role as a consultee on the wind farm planning application submitted last week.
Navitus project director Mike Unsworth spoke about the government’s push toward more offshore wind capacity, citing climate change and energy security as key concerns.
He said the UK is a world leader in wind energy technology, which has the potential to create many jobs, and that Navitus intends to involve local businesses in the project – claimed to offset 1.3 million tonnes of carbon – where possible.
Mr Unsworth called on the audience to base their views on facts, saying the developer had contacted a wide array of experts and concluded there would be no significant impact on bird populations, the World Heritage Site status of the Jurassic Coast, or tourism, and that noise levels would be within acceptable parameters.
Teacher Susan Chapman, described as possibly the area’s most active green campaigner, said she was there “for future generations, who aren’t very well represented here today”.
She warned of the dangers posed by climate change and said “urgent action” was needed to mitigate them. She praised wind technology, dismissing a number of common criticisms about the effect on tourism and birds as false.
“Let’s say yes to Navitus, yes to a clean future for our children,” she added.
But chartered civil engineer Roy Pointer, of the Poole and Christchurch Bays’ Association, said: “We want to see this scheme confined to the dustbin of history.”
He said the project was “too big, too close and in the wrong location”. He criticised wind energy as expensive and said the turbines would be hazardous to birds and shipping.
Dr Andrew Langley, of lobby group Challenge Navitus, said the turbines were “very large structures which can be seen at long range”, and the onshore cable construction work would be equivalent to that “of an eight-lane motorway”.
He said the noise and debris from pile driving at sea would have an adverse impact on marine organisms, affecting five million square metres of sea bed.
“We have choices about where we build onshore wind farms. Navitus Bay is just a bad plan and in the wrong place,” he concluded.
Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood said Bournemouth was an “exceptional resort” in the same league as Barcelona but the wind farm would put people off visiting. Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said he was “angry” at how the company “had treated the community”.
The council’s director of tourism, Mark Smith, said the authority had data showing the number of people visiting the town would be reduced by 32 per cent during the construction and 14 per cent long term.
Elsewhere, he said, wind farms had been sited more appropriately to negate the visual impact.
Views from the audience were mixed, although those speaking against the application had numbers on their side. One speaker said “Do not allow another blot on the landscape”, referring to the IMAX building, but another said she found the turbines “majestic” in appearance.
Tony Yates, of Hengistbury Head Residents' Association, said residents “overwhelmingly” opposed the project, while Chris Colledge, of West Cliff Residents’ Association, said the majority of people there felt it was “too big and too close”.
“As a member of the angling community, one cannot underestimate the effect this will have on marine life,” he said.
Angela Pooley, of East Dorset Friends of the Earth, said: “Climate change will have a far greater effect on the landscape than this wind farm.”
Professor John Sharpe, from Highcliffe, claimed more than 3,500 mature oak trees would need to be cut down to accommodate the cables, and Poole councillor Tony Woodcock said that if only 60 jobs were to be created in the area it would not make up for the economic impact.
After hearing from the speakers, residents were invited to record their views on a feedback form.
Council leader Cllr John Beesley said the turnout reflected the great strength of feeling among residents, and that their views would have “very significant weight” with the Planning Inspectorate, which will consider the application.
“There is a lot of data to go through and we need to make sure we have understood all that before we give an evidence-based view,” he added.
“It needs to be based on planning policy and it needs to be sustainable.”
PLANNING INSPECTORATE TO HOLD INFORMATION MEETINGS
REPRESENTATIVES of the Planning Inspectorate visit Bournemouth later this month to explain more about the wind farm planning process.
The organisation confirmed last week that a valid planning application with 18,000 pages of supporting documents has been lodged by Navitus Bay Development Ltd.
Anyone who wants to keep informed has between Tuesday, May 13, and Monday, June 23, to register as an interested party.
The Inspectorate is holding an information event at The Wessex Hotel, West Cliff Road, on Thursday, May 22, from 2-7pm, with presentations at 3pm and 6pm.
The public can drop in at any time to find out more and ask questions.
If you wish to attend, telephone 0303 444 5000, email NavitusBay@ infrastructure.gso.gov.uk or inform the team via post.
Address your letters to the Navitus Bay case team, Major Applications and Plans, The Planning Inspectorate, Temple Quay House, Bristol, BS1 6PN.
DECISION DUE AFTER NEXT ELECTION
NAVITUS Bay wind farm is designated a nationally significant infrastructure project, so the final decision will be made at a national level.
The £3billion wind farm would have up to 194 turbines, up to 200 metres high, in the bay around 13 miles from Bournemouth and Poole.
The project, part of a third round of offshore wind projects on designated Crown Estate sites, is a joint venture between energy firms Eneco Wind UK – part of Dutch firm Eneco – and EDF Energy, the UK subsidiary of French energy giant EDF. The decision will be made after the next election and based on the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendations.