Subject: Navitus Bay wind farm. Year end review from HENRA.
We felt it would be a good idea to provide this update after an active year opposing the wind farm scheme and before the next formal consultation in February. It is being sent to the Residents’ Associations (RAs), the HENRA committee, Challenge Navitus (CN), some MPs, councillors and council officers.
- February 2012 consultation. The Eneco promotion roadshow generated a lot of interest but it was evident the wind company (now NBDL) would not give full details of the scheme, in particular the number, size and location of the turbines. Furthermore, the visual presentation was misleading because it underplayed the impact. One person in Christchurch remarked to the effect that the scheme would be barely visible and nothing to worry about. It was also clear from the start that the “consultation” was merely an exercise in explaining what was going to happen rather than any attempt to engage or negotiate. The project director Chris Sherrington last February has now been replaced by Mike Unsworth.
- 10 July 2012 House of Commons Select Committee. HENRA made a written submission to the Energy and Climate Change Committee about the economics of wind power. However, the Committee did not take up our offer for our Chairman Tony Yates to present in person. In summary, the wind industry are happy to carry out these schemes onshore and offshore due to the enormous subsidies derived from customers’ fuel bills and without which, no wind farm would be built. We referred amongst other things to the Hughes’ report demonstrating that the capital cost of wind is ten times that for gas producing the same amount of power. A key submission was made to the Committee by Adrian Snook, who is an advisor to onshore wind farm protest groups and who has also mobilised the opposition of MPs. He talked about the steady increase in local anger caused by the high-handed attitude of the wind companies. In one case, The Watford Lodge wind farm, Northants., the proposal involved three years of “consultation” which he described as trench warfare – it was then built without a single change from the original design. Despite our requesting in writing that the Committee issue a report on this hearing, that request has been declined.
- Challenge Navitus. Throughout the year, an information campaign has been undertaken to raise public awareness. Presentations have been made to councils, HENRA etc. and meetings held with the wind company particularly concerning the visual impact. Following the highly professional videos on the CN website (now including a video from the top of Hengistbury Head), the wind company has responded by updating their own visuals for the consultation next month. Hopefully, they will be less misleading than those used last February. CN has also taken part in useful press and local TV coverage.
- HENRA. We have held meetings with our MP Tobias Ellwood. There has been ongoing but unsatisfactory correspondence with NBDL including attendance at a Drop-In session last June. It was finally possible to arrange a wind company presentation to our members (see below) on the basis of it not being a public meeting. We have a clear mandate from the members to pursue our opposition to the scheme in principle. In December, we circulated a summary of some key aspects of the wind farm and our objections to about 4,000 local residents. There have been discussions and a meeting with Bournemouth Council followed by organising the liaison needed for the RA meeting at the Miramar Hotel. We expect to have a meeting of our wind farm sub-committee with NBDL in the next two months. Contact has been made regarding the impact on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. HENRA prefers to see the scheme abandoned altogether, but failing this drastically reduced in order to be no more intrusive than Eneco’s Dutch Prinses Amalia existing wind farm. The scheme modifications, recently announced by NBDL, are too minor to make a difference to our current objections.
- MPs work. Tobias Ellwood, Conor Burns, Richard Drax, Christopher Chope and Robert Syms are all understood to be opposing the scheme. Their concerns were spelt out at a House of Commons adjournment debate about Navitus Bay. That debate secured the statement from the minister then in post (Charles Hendry) that Navitus Bay is “not a done deal” by any means and if the wind company has not followed due process that would disadvantage the company before the planning inspector. (An example here is that the company has not put forward the “worst case scenario” as required by the Rochdale Envelope rules.)
- 21 September 2012 meeting of residents’ associations’ representatives. A lively meeting of RAs took place at the Miramar Hotel, including also Andrew Langley from CN, and Mark Smith (tourism), Mark Anderson (task and finish group) and Steve Davies (planning) from Bournemouth Council. Andrew presented as did HENRA’s John Lambon with his large display boards giving dramatic height comparisons of turbines, buildings and land. There was virtually no support for the wind farm scheme in the room and matters were left for attendees to report back to their associations, with a view to forming an umbrella body that could speak for residents from Purbeck to Christchurch. In the meantime, HENRA would update on key matters by email, as has been done. The proposal has now been taken forward with a steering group to meet on 24 January in Poole as the next stage. I am expecting to circulate minutes of that meeting to all the RAs. At present, that list includes 39 email contacts.
- 19 October 2012 meeting of council leaders and MPs. Following a particularly fruitless conference with NBDL (so frustrating that one senior person from the council side walked out of it), Bournemouth Council arranged this meeting to plan a strategy for the future. It was successful in that there was no support for the wind farm scheme as currently known and it was decided not to allow the company to continue to “divide and rule.” In future, councils will not meet with the company in isolation or support the company’s false claim that genuine consultation is happening and that “box can be ticked.” Each council also agreed to review its approach for consulting residents with a view to mutual co-operation. Anger was vented about how NBDL wanted to disclose their scheme in detail only after securing full planning consent. This scarcely complies with the spirit of the Rochdale Envelope, which is supposed to allow streamlined planning in return for effective consultation. MPs and councils feel number, height and location of turbines should be disclosed now. Without knowing this, how can councils produce proper Local Impact Reports?
- Main local objections. There are many reasons to oppose the wind farm plan. National issues include the controversial foundation for the huge subsidies (man-made global warming hypothesis), the many unaffordable billions now being spent on green policies and the fact that UK wind farms will have no discernable effect on global carbon dioxide emissions. However, the generally agreed local view is that it is best for us to concentrate on local matters, e.g. visual impact, tourism losses, risk of noise affecting human health, risk to migrating birds, unbelievably poor choice of such a sensitive site for a wind farm and sailing/navigation problems. In the end, if the scheme does not fail due to austerity-driven national subsidy cuts, there will be a planning enquiry. The inspector for that enquiry will have to take national policy as given, but will be able to listen to local issues – hence it is best to concentrate on those.
- Consultation and transparency. It is fair to say that whilst claiming to be open and listening, NBDL is not doing this. Delays and unanswered enquiries are common. For example, HENRA are still awaiting a site plan giving the 50 metre depth line, the Wight Barfleur reef location, the sloping seabed location etc. NBDL has also failed to respond to a request for the noise output of the different turbine sizes that may be used. (A noise expert from Canada has studied an offshore scheme in the Great Lakes and advised there should definitely be an independent study of noise risk here, a matter being considered now by Bournemouth Council.) RSPB is still waiting for disclosure of NBDL’s bird survey information in order to be able to decide their response to the scheme. Bournemouth Council has suggested a one year delay in NBDL making their planning application to allow time for necessary work to be completed by NBDL, work that was long since identified by the council as essential.
- 7 November 2012 presentation to HENRA by NBDL. After the presentation by a large wind company panel and the Q & A session, the packed meeting firmly rejected the whole idea of a wind farm in Poole Bay. Minutes were produced by both sides but not agreed. The NBDL minutes were limited by not including either the project director’s presentation or the four votes by the members. The HENRA minutes included a misquote by NBDL and some suggestions were later made by NBDL to make some changes to what was said. However, the following comments on significant points should aid understanding:
- The penultimate bullet point in the minutes of Mike Unsworth’s presentation includes a misquote of what Andrew Langley (CN) had said. Instead, Andrew would be happy with the following statement: “CN does not agree with NBDL’s statements relating to CN’s visualisations. CN’s images are scaled to show the windfarm at exactly life-size when they are viewed from the stated viewing distance. The field of view is necessarily limited by the number of pixels on a computer screen, as the turbines are not resolved if the view is made too wide. For more information on the technicalities see www.challengenavitus.org.uk/videos-vs-photos.html .”
- On page 5, there is a reference to 210 metres above the seabed, but it should have referred to above the sea level.
- On page 3, NBDL referred to the phrase “wider perspective than is seen by the eye.” NBDL consider that it would have been clearer to have said “wider perspective based on what the human eye can see.”
- On page 4, there is a reference to the phrase “planning issues are not particularly considered.” NBDL consider that it would have been clearer to have said “a significant number of constraints were considered.”
- On page 5, there is a reference to the phrase “105% of the costs.” NBDL consider that it would have been clearer to have said “105% of average power prices.”
Finally, I must include a reminder please about the Swanage hand-linking at 10 a.m. onwards at the Mowlem Theatre on 13 January. It is hoped to have a good number of people there particularly as the event is to be covered by the media. For convenience, a leaflet of this event is attached.
Chairman HENRA Wind Farm Sub-Committee