South Dorset MP Speaks Out Over Controversial Windfarm
7:46am 6th July 2012
It would be like building 300 wind turbines off the Great Barrier Reef.
That's how South Dorset MP Richard Drax has described plans for an offshore windfarm in the waters off the Jurassic Coast, which also has world heritage status.
"Dorset and East Devon's stunning Jurassic coast is the only natural UNESCO world heritage site in England," said Drax.
"The Great Barrier Reef has the same status and if we were to suggest building 300 wind turbines off that, the Australians would tell us, in typically blunt fashion, exactly where to go."
"World Heritage status is a prized designation and a magnet for 16 million visitors every year. Tourists spend nearly £700m a year there and support more than 45,000 jobs. And yes, the unspoilt view is key to this success, so why are we considering jeopardising this jewel by siting a giant wind farm just offshore."
Drax said that he had written to UNESCO warning them that the Jurassic coast was in danger of being blighted by this development. They had replied, he said, and were writing to the UK's permanent delegation to UNESCO and to the World Heritage Committee. They were also demanding a visual analysis of the potential negative impact on the coastline.
"UNESCO considered withdrawing the world heritage designation given to the beautiful and secluded site of Mont Saint Michel in France when it was threatened by just three wind turbines 20 km away, " added Drax. "The French electricity firm involved quickly backed down and Mont Saint Michel remains undisturbed, surrounded by a permanent 40 by 80 km exclusion zone."
Drax's speech was supported by other Dorset MPs, including Christopher Chope, Conor Burns and Tobias Ellwood - all of whom said that the proposals were a source of great concern to their constituents.
The Minister for Climate Change, Charles Hendry, responded that it was the Government's policy to replace 15 per cent of the UK's energy needs with renewables by 2020. He did not address the question of the World Heritage designation.
Although precise details of the windfarm will not be available until the autumn of 2013, the location is set, in an area the size of the Isle of Purbeck, just off the Isle of Wight. It will be visible from most of the Jurassic coastline and will cover a third of the horizon when looking out to sea from Swanage.
The requirement for generation of between 900MW and 1200MW of electricity annually will mean between 100 and 333 turbines, depending upon their size.
In addition, despite Department for Energy and Climate Change's guidelines which suggest that wind farms should be further than 23km offshore, much of the proposed Navitus Bay site is within 13km of landfall.
"The truth is that Navitus Bay will be too big and too close," says Drax.