An open floor hearing on the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park, hosted by the Planning Inspectorate

Jeopardising the Jurassic Coast’s World Heritage status and the risk to navigation were among the concerns raised today about the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park development.

Around 80 speakers took part in today’s open floor hearing at the Bournemouth International Centre, hosted by the Planning Inspectorate.

Several members of the public spoke out in favour of the scheme, saying it was time to wake up to the threat of climate change and focus on renewable energy, however many more registered interested parties stepped forward to oppose it.

Navitus Bay Development Limited is proposing to build an offshore wind farm with up to 194, 200m-tall wind turbines situated in popular sailing waters off Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

At its closest point, (Durlston Head) the development area would be less than nine miles (14.3km) from the shore.

It is estimated that in a typical year, the Navitus Bay Wind Park could generate 3.0 terrawatt hours (TWh)

of electricity a year, enough to power around 700,000 average UK households.

Among the speakers was Professor Denys Brunsden OBE, a geomorphologist who proposed the Jurassic Coast for World Heritage Site status when he was the first Chairman of the Dorset Coast Forum and worked with other experts to successfully achieve this goal.

Prof. Brunsden said: ‘I feel I have a responsibility to comment on the proposed development.’ When he presented the World Heritage application to UNESCO in Helsinki, Prof. Brunsden said the committee asked to see evidence that the site was surrounded by a ‘buffer zone’ of air, land and sea, that would protect it.

Assurances were given, with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest designations cited, and the ‘British Government agreed to this policy, making the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) responsible for it’.

Prof Brunsden said: ‘The conditions accepted by UNESCO would be radically changed by this development. In this context, the proposal for a wind farm of this magnitude, so close to the site and dominating the setting, is unacceptable.’

He added: ‘This is a beautiful place, the most heavily designated site in Europe. The dilemma facing the inquiry is: Is

it in the national interest to develop renewable energy sources here or is it of national interest to preserve this World Heritage site?’

Sailing concerns

Commodore of Christchurch Sailing Club, Lawrence Crapper raised concerns about the impact on recreational sailors.

He said: ‘Crown Estates really did not do their homework when allocating this area. This is a busy area for commercial and recreational boats. Why build 194 obstructions in it?

‘Trinity House says that at least 13,000 vessels cross the proposed site each year. The proposed wind farm is too close to the commercial shipping lanes. The inevitable consequence is marine accidents by recreational craft and commercial shipping.’

He added: ‘The Royal Yachting Association has emphasised the importance of the area for racing and cruising to the developer. Ignored again.

‘Throughout the five year construction phase all traffic would have to go round the area, leading to pinch points on the corners causing more end-on-end collision possibilities.

‘The tidal influences on sailing boats are thoroughly underestimated by the developer. Any craft can travel near these sites in good weather. With any form of propulsion difficulty or gear failure it is very possible that the wind and strong tidal streams will push any craft into the wind farm.’

Mr Crapper said smaller sites with smaller turbines had shown that these structures would affect communicating systems, which could ‘reduce the effectiveness of emergency services.’

He added: ‘Boating tourism added £3.7billion to the UK economy in 2012-13, more than the London Olympics. This proposed development is in the wrong place. It is an unacceptable risk to navigation for marine traffic.’

Yachting journalist Mike Owen said the wind farm would create ‘an enormous new obstruction to navigation in previously open waters.’

Cruising sailor Crispin Read Wilson objected to the ‘visual intrusion, risk to navigation and loss of amenity’ and said it would be ‘a man-made industrial park, each structure far taller than the cliffs around them.’

He added: ‘The possibility of getting into trouble with the steel forest to leeward is quite frightening.’

Keen yachtsman Martin Weston, a resident of Barton-on-Sea, said:

‘This part of the English Channel is not only renowned in the UK but

world-renowned for its sailing quality and the water craft amenities it

has.’

Mr Weston said the scheme raised concerns about marine safety and the

risk of collision or avoidance of the turbines and a negative visual

impact. He added: ‘I really have to hand it to Navitus

Bay, they’re so proud of their design they’ve placed it centre stage in a

natural ampitheatre of Purbeck, the Isle of Wight and the South Coast.

‘I

doubt any other proposal could be visible on the same scale. Three

counties will share its blight.’

Visiting sailor Perham Harding, from London, said he would be

deterred from sailing in the area if the wind farm was built. He told the hearing:

‘I’m woefully aware of how much I spend in the local economy,

maintaining my boat.’

Benefits

Resident Christina Hanny supported the development. She said: ‘Scotland, an area of outstanding beauty and very dependant on tourism, has recently approved three offshore wind farms and this will mean by 2020 Scotland will be producing 100% or its electricity needs from sustainable resources and a lot of this is from offshore wind farms.’

She added that fauna and flora in the sea around the turbine structures would be enriched by the new ‘settled home.’

A former commercial fisherman turned sea kayak coach, told the hearing how the turbines would prevent large-scale trawlers and dredgers from using the area and would create ‘features’ needed for new marine habitats, particularly for crabs and lobsters, all of which would benefit local fishing boats. He added that local kayakers would see the wind farm as an attraction.

Local resident Angela Pooley also spoke in support, saying: ‘One of the key issues is the real need to move to renewable energy sources to combat climate change.’

Rachel Allen said: ‘I’m shocked that so many people do not want the wind park because of the view of it. I know fields beside the roads that are dotted with electricity pylons but they’re accepted.’

She added: ‘I believe the wind turbines, once in the sea, will be an asset to Bournemouth and the South Coast of Dorset. I say yes to Navitus Bay.’

Alan Neale said the scaling back of the scheme by Navitus Bay Development Limited – for a second time in February this year – alleviated his concerns about the visual impact.

Economic boost

Yarmouth Harbour Master Chris Lisher said while the construction work wouldn’t involve Yarmouth, and would involve a £3.5billion investment in Portland or Poole Harbour for four or five years from 2017.

He said 2,000 jobs would be created for the period of construction and thereafter an operation or maintenance business from Poole, Portland or Yarmouth – a 25-year contract that could potentially be extended for another 25 years.

Mr Lisher added: ‘If Yarmouth were to be selected it would be critical for the local economy and a significant boost. The Isle of Wight has high unemployment compared to the rest of southern England.

‘Many of the existing jobs are in the tourist sector and seasonal. These 100 jobs as technicians and support boat operators will require highly trained and skilled people earning much more than the average local wage.’

More concerns

Captain Richard Underhill raised concerns about the construction of cabling tunnels causing destabilisation to the cliffs under his home at Milford on Sea.

Iain Sclanders said he opposed having an industrial installation on an area of outstanding natural beauty and said the land and sea should be seen ‘holistically’.

Terry Stewart of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) group said the 30km cable route would pass through the New Forest and involve cutting down hundreds of trees, affecting three sites of special scientific interest, two streams, 13 roads and seven footpaths.


Bournemouth Councillor Robert Chapman said the photomontages of how the turbines would look from the coast, presented by NBDL to the council, were ‘total nonsense’. He said: ‘We’re told they will be hardly noticeable when in total truth they will overwhelm the skyline.’


Mr R.S. Hampson asked why tidal power was not considered instead of ‘fickle wind’, ‘when we have predictable tides running twice a day?’

Tobias Ellwood MP said more clear details were needed about the proposed development. He said: ‘Even today it’s quite unclear how many turbines will be built and where.’ He said if given the go ahead, this scheme would ‘set a precedent for further wind farms to be built in this area.’

John Mitchell, a conservation officer for Dorset Bird Club, said tens of thousands of birds would be potentially affected by the development, including the Nightjar.

He said: ‘This is a highly important area for migratory birds and the issue has not been robustly assessed by the applicant.’

Councillor John Trickett raised concerns about the ‘ impact on sea off the Needles, Isle of Wight, which is one of only two sites in the UK licensed and operating for burials at sea.

Concerns addressed

John Houghton, a solicitor representing Navitus Bay Development Limited (NBDL), said the company would be responding to the relevant representations received by the deadline of 20 October.

He sought to clarify facts and address several concerns raised by the speakers. He told the hearing the burial site was approximately 10km from the array. He said: ‘There’s no question of the assessment having been swept under the carpet, it’s been expressly addressed.’

Mr Houghton said the Government guidance did not, as several speakers suggested, say offshore wind farms should be 12 nautical miles away from the shore and said the Navitus Bay photomontages met the ‘terms of what the relevant guidance says’. He said the cabling work would not adversely impact any cliffs.

Mr Houghton said regarding the loss of trees and hedgerow replanting, proposals were being incorporated for a biodiversity fund and it would be up to the local authorities how it was spent. He said: ‘The last figures are that there would be a loss of trees of approximately 12 hectares, replacement trees planted of approximately six hectares and a biodiversity fund for 12 to 36 hectares of replacement planting.

‘All ancient woodland would be avoided by means of horizontal drilling.’

Regarding demands for NBDL’s carbon dioxide emmissions policy, Mr Houghton said: ‘national policy states quite clearly on this that a statement of carbon balance is not required.’

He said a full navigational risk assessment was encapsulated in the environmental risk assessment and there had been ‘full discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Trinity House and Royal Yachting Association‘. Mr Houghton added: ‘Statements from that will be produced on the 20th.’

He said the concerns about the impact on tourism following a perception survey were not based on ‘robust evidence’.

The hearing was told that NBDL had been in discussions with the RSPB and Natural England regarding bird migration routes and would be providing more answers to concerns raised in due course. Mr Houghton said extended horizontal directional drilling would be used around Dorset’s heathlands and conservation sites. He said: ‘Clearly it will be more expensive but in the wider scheme of things it won’t make a significant difference.’

Mr Houghton also said UNESCO had not objected to the proposal or registered as an interested party about the planning application. However this was later dismissed by Prof. Brunsden who said it was up to the DCMS, who ‘should be here representing UNESCO as the British Government.’ He added: ‘it’s quite wrong that they’re not.’

Bournemouth resident Anne Winiecki received a round of applause (discouraged at the open floor hearing) from the audience when she asked: ‘Can you see the Australian Government placing a wind farm next to the Great Barrier Reef?’

She added: ‘If we can’t protect a site with World Heritage status, what hope is there for the less important places on this planet?’

What’s next?


Another open floor hearing is scheduled for the Isle of Wight on 2 December. Issue-specific hearings will be held throughout November and site visits will take place in December.

The Planning Inspectorate’s examination final deadline is 11 March 2015.

Click here to find out more.