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Britain wind farm proposal scaled back in face of opposition

Feb. 7, 2014 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

BOURNEMOUTH, England, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The developer of a controversial offshore wind farm in the English Channel announced this week it has reduced its size and moved it farther from shore.

Eneco Wind U.K. Ltd. and EDF Energy Renewables, developers of the Navitus Bay wind farm, are seeking planning permission to begin construction by 2017 in hopes of generating energy by 2019.

Following complaints it would despoil the natural beauty of the England's Hampshire coast, the companies said Thursday they have instituted changes that would reduce its generating capacity from 1.1 gigawatts to 970 megawatts with 23 fewer turbines, while cutting the area of the farm from 67.5 to 60 square miles.

Its revised boundaries would put the farm up to 2 miles further away from Christchurch, England, and 1 mile further from Bournemouth.

However, critics noted the new boundaries wouldn't alter its proximity to Swanage, England, or the popular Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, a 95-mile stretch of coastline made of rocks from the Mesozoic Era.

Navitus Bay Project Director Mike Unsworth said the changes were after listening to complaints from local residents.

"The boundary change is significant, and balances the need to reduce visual impact while ensuring that the project continues to make an important contribution to sustainable energy generation in the U.K. and to the local economy in the shape of jobs and investment," he said.

"As we move towards submitting our final application for planning permission, we believe that this latest boundary change is a positive step, ensuring that the project reflects local views whilst bringing considerable benefits to the region."

Opponents, though, were unimpressed. Andrew Findlay of the Challenge Navitas citizen's group called the updates mere "tweaks" which didn't truly address the environmental dangers posed by the wind farm.

"We are still awaiting full details, but the changes to the plan appear to be marginal and go nowhere near far enough to convince people that this disastrous proposal won't have the damaging impacts that so many fear," he wrote in a blog post on the group's website.

"The threats to the environment, tourism, birds and navigation remain almost unchanged, and the onshore disruption will be the same," Findlay declared, adding, "The proposal would need a far more radical rethink to address the issues raised in consultation, and it remains a bad plan in completely the wrong area."

The alterations were also met with skepticism from the Poole and Christchurch Bays Association. Group spokesman Philip Dewhurst told the (Bournemouth) Daily Echo the new plans were "like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

"Even with these tweaks, Navitus will still be too big, too visible from our shores and too damaging to our tourism and boating economies. We will carry on the fight in the hope that sanity prevails and this hugely expensive white elephant is scrapped."

The group asserted the new plans reduced the wind farm's size by just 10 percent, calling it "totally insignificant when compared to the need for an 85 percent reduction just to meet the government's Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment."

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