DORSET’S MPs have taken the debate over the controversial Navitus Bay wind farm to Westminster – with the potential impact on tourism a major concern.
Robert Syms, MP for Poole, secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday that involved Mid Dorset and North Poole’s Annette Brooke, Bournemouth MPs Tobias Ellwood and Conor Burns, South Dorset MP Richard Drax, Andrew Turner for the Isle of Wight and the Minister of State for Department of Energy and Climate Change, Michael Fallon.
Concerns included the consultation process, the impact on tourism, visual impact, sailing issues and bird life.
Mr Syms said all were “disappointed by the process”.
“People are never quite sure what they are dealing with – how many turbines, how big, or what will be generated,” he said.
Mrs Brooke said she was in favour of wind farms in principle and “lots of myths” surrounded the application, which she said was also down to the process, which was “very difficult for local people”.
Mr Syms said that his biggest concern was visual impact, with up to 218 turbines planned about 12 miles from Bournemouth and Poole and nine miles off parts of South Dorset.
Mr Drax added: “I hate to think what the Australians would say to us if we suggested that they put 218 turbines as close to the Great Barrier Reef, as is suggested for our World Heritage site.”
Mr Ellwood, for Bournemouth East, said his concern was that the 12-mile guidelines were designed when turbines were only 100 metres high.
Mr Burns, for Bournemouth West, added: “It could go significantly further out to sea.
“The tourism economy is worth in excess of £425 million to the town’s economy. It supports in the region of 16,000 local jobs. Navitus Bay’s own research suggested that one third of summer visitors questioned would not return to Bournemouth during the construction period, which it is estimated will last for five years. That would be a devastating blow to our local economy.”
But Mrs Brooke said: “There is not great evidence that tourism will necessarily be affected, and at the end of the day a Minister will survey all that has been presented.”
Michael Fallon said that concerns would be “thoroughly considered during the planning process”.
The final consultation has now finished and a planning application is due to be submitted in 2014.