TORY backbenchers voted against their own leader to force a study into the effects of the proposed wind farm.

They want to see if the plans for around 200 windmills would damage Bournemouth’s tourism and residents’ quality of life.

Council leader Peter Charon – whose group has 46 seats on the council against seven for all other parties – spoke against the call to set up a study group.

Three other members of his group abstained and one, Michael Filer, voted against the move, but the rest backed it.

Eneco Wind UK Limited wants to build turbines with a tip height of 163 metres (535 feet) up to 10.2 miles from the Bournemouth coast and the final say rests with the government.

Cllr Charon told the town hall debate that while the council had a responsibility to residents, “we have an even greater responsibility to society as a whole”.

He said: “Gas and electricity prices are going up again by 10-15 per cent. Many of our residents are elderly and could be tipped into fuel poverty. Petrol prices continue to rise and we cannot rely on fossil fuels forever.”

But Tory Cllr Stephen Chappell, who proposed the move to set up a study group, said residents were worried about noise, marine life, the view and the effect on tourism.

Cllr Mark Anderson said he was “very concerned that the leader seems to have got slightly confused”, claiming it was green taxes that were putting up fuel prices.

Cllr Mike Greene, like several councillors, said he was in favour of green energy but wanted more facts and the study group could provide them.

He had seen images by Eneco that suggested the turbines would be a “smudge on the horizon” and others by Bournemouth Natural Science Society that suggested they would be “four to five times the height of Old Harry Rocks”.

He said they had no data about sound, but another wind farm off Lincolnshire reportedly sounded like a “helicopter” and a couple were suing for £2.5million.

Cllr Beverley Dunlop, formerly cabinet member for tourism, said she was concerned at the “potential destruction” of the town’s tourism economy.

There was also a presentation by the energy scientist Brendan McNamara, a member of the Bournemouth Natural Science Society.

He said wind farm energy production would be erratic and at only 350 megawatts, the same as one small gas power station.

A task and finish study group, made up of councillors, will study the wind farm’s potential effects on Bournemouth to help the council with any future lobbying.

After the meeting, an Eneco spokesman told the Echo: “We really don’t think there will be any issues with noise at all, certainly at this distance.

“It’s a huge programme and nationally significant. We still don’t know exactly what size the turbines will be.”

The firm claims 81 per cent of people “along the south coast” were in support.