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Navitus Bay Wind Park - Project Director Mike Unsworth tells us more

PUBLISHED: 11:36 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:36 12 January 2015

Artist's impression of an off shore wind park

Artist's impression of an off shore wind park

Archant

The proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park off the Dorset coast is one of the county’s most hotly-debated issues. Project Director, Mike Unsworth tells us more about the proposal which is whipping up such a storm of protest

The 970MW Navitus Bay Wind Park is proposed off the Dorset and Hampshire coast, to the west of the Isle of Wight. The wind turbines would cover an area of approximately 60 sq miles and generate enough electricity to power around 710,000 homes a year.

The nearest turbines to the Dorset coast would be at Durlston Head (8.9 miles offshore) and Swanage (9.1 miles offshore). At Christchurch (Hengistbury Head) they will be 12.4 miles offshore, while at Poole and Bournemouth they will be 13.1 and 13.3 miles offshore respectively.In response to feedback from public consultation, the boundary of the wind park has been scaled back to reduce the visual impact. Subject to gaining consent, construction could start in 2017 with the first wind turbines generating energy by 2019.

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I believe you have made some changes which have reduced the size of the site?

We made two changes to scale back the project ahead of submitting our planning application to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). Our application is now being examined by PINS and in response to a question from PINS we submitted an option which incorporates a turbine exclusion area to reduce the number of turbines and move them further from shore. The option does not replace our original proposal, it does provide the examining panel, and the Secretary of State, with a second option which strikes a different balance in terms of impact and benefits.

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Why is the wind park in this location?

As part of the UK Government’s commitment to harnessing our natural wind resources, the Crown Estate (which owns the seabed) conducted a strategic assessment to determine the optimum areas around the UK’s coastline for offshore wind farms. This took into consideration a wide range of factors including wind speeds, seabed conditions, environmental sensitivities, shipping lanes and so on. Our location was one of nine strategic areas identified by the Crown Estate.

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Will it affect the Jurassic Coast’s World Heritage status?

We have worked closely with organisations like English Heritage to assess the potential impact of the development on the World Heritage status of the Jurassic Coast and it’s worth noting that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) provided a report to UNESCO in February 2014 in which they concluded: ‘Our overall conclusion, on the basis of the evidence presented so far, is that while the proposed wind park will have some impact on the World Heritage property, there should be no significant adverse impact on Outstanding Universal Value’.

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There has been a lot of debate regarding the visuals which you have produced. Do they give an accurate view of the wind park’s visual impact?

As a responsible developer, we have always produced visualisations in strict accordance with the recognised industry standards. Independent experts, employed by Dorset County Council, found our visuals valid and compliant with all guidelines.

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Will the wind park affect local tourism?

Independent surveys have identified that there will be some impacts to tourism, particularly when construction is taking place; however these impacts will not be significant. Evidence from other coastal locations near the UK’s 22 existing operational offshore wind farms indicates that they have little impact on the local tourism industry. In fact, in some locations the turbines have often become tourist attractions in their own right.

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What are the economic benefits of Navitus Bay?

Independent experts have stated that Navitus Bay will create up to £1.62bn of economic value across the region, support 1700 jobs during construction and a further 140 during the 25 years operational life of the wind park.

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What happens now?

The planning application for the Navitus Bay is now subject to an independent examination by the Planning Inspectorate. This is designed to rigorously assess the impacts and benefits of the development and ensure local residents and other interested parties have their voices heard, this runs until March 2015. The final decision on the planning application will be announced by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in September 2015. n

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What’s your opinion? Are you for or against the Navitus Bay Wind Park? We would like to hear your point of view. Email the editor helen.stiles@archant.co.uk or write to us: Dorset Magazine, Archant House, Babbage Road, Totnes TQ9 5JA.

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