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Huge offshore wind farm refused consent by ministers

Published: Thursday, 17th September 2015

Energy minister Lord Bourne has announced development consent has been refused for the proposed Navitus Bay offshore wind park.

The wind park involved some 194 turbines set to be located between 14 and 17 kilometres off the Dorset and Isle of Wight coasts.

The scheme was the brainchild originally of Eneco, a Dutch energy company, later joined by EDF Energy, a French one. It was examined by a team of four planning inspectors between September 2014 and March 2015. They recommended refusal.

The most significant aspect of the examination was that in response to opposition to the proximity of the proposed wind farm to the coast, the promoters put forward an alternative option where just the seaward half of the wind farm would be built, reducing the number of turbines to 76-105.

The scheme met a huge amount of opposition partly because of its proximity to Dorset’s so-called Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site. There were also fears the scheme would hit tourism. Local Tory MPs were very vocal in their opposition.

The decision letter made it clear that although the World Heritage Site is a geological one, the visual impact of the turbines on the site was sufficient to refuse the project.

This is only the second large offshore wind farm to be refused, the other one was Docking Shoal off the Lincolnshire coast which was considered before the Planning Act 2008 regime came into force.

Infrastructure planning expert Angus Walker, a partner with law firm BDB, said: “Characterising this as a huge blow for renewable energy is probably going a bit far.

“All the other offshore wind farms promoted under the Planning Act 2008 have been approved, this one is something of a special case given its proximity to the coast, although the Rampion wind farm off the Sussex coast was about the same distance and has been approved.

“The Conservatives’ opposition to onshore wind is well known, and this decision suggests that near-shore wind farms are also vulnerable.”

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Roger Milne