According to Bournemouth Borough Council, Navitus Bay’s ‘Plan B’ cannot legally be considered under the existing wind farm proposal. The council believes it is both illegal and unreasonable to allow consideration of Navitus Bay’s ‘eleventh hour’ alternative option without any of the required public consultation and environmental assessment activity having been undertaken.
The council has made its submission to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate arguing that Navitus Bay’s ‘Mitigation Option’ (commonly referred to as ‘Plan B’) cannot be considered as part of the original wind farm development for three reasons:
– Any amendment made to the current wind farm development needs to be ‘non-material’ (ie minor revisions) for it still to be legally considered under the existing proposal. Downsizing the scheme – reducing the number of turbines by 46% (from a maximum of 194 turbines to 105) and the generating capacity by 35% (from 970MW to 630MW) are vast reductions and amount to major, material changes;
– The visitor and business surveys carried out as part of the original environmental assessment provided critical evidence as to what impact the wind farm would have on Bournemouth’s local economy and tourism. This has been a significant point of dispute between Navitus Bay and local councils and businesses. Bournemouth Borough Council believes that new visitor and business surveys would need to be carried out based on the new scaled down wind farm to ensure that risks and benefits to the local economy are based on certainty rather than assumption;
– NBDL itself has referred to the need for ‘natural justice’ in the planning process to ensure that anyone affected by amended proposals has a fair opportunity to have their views heard. By submitting such major changes to the scheme so late in the day, those affected by the proposals have not, in fact, had the chance to do so.
“The proposed changes to the original wind farm development are undoubtedly major and by no stretch of the imagination could they be construed as ‘non-material’,” said Leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, Councillor John Beesley. “Given the magnitude of the scheme – even in its reduced form – it is entirely unlawful and unreasonable in terms of transparency of process and in providing an adequate consultation period to entertain the changes as ‘minor revisions’.
“It is critical that natural justice is done and that the public are fairly consulted on ‘Plan B’. It is incorrect to assume that just because the scheme is reduced in scale, people will reduce their concerns. On the contrary, some of the people who felt the damage to the sea views was a price worth paying for the positive impacts of clean energy generation may not be of the same opinion if the industrialisation of Poole Bay remains, but the energy generation capacity is significantly reduced.”
Bournemouth Borough Council is adamant that the examination process will need to continue on the basis of the scheme as originally submitted. “If the mitigation option is to be considered, the process should start from scratch with the preparation of a new application and Environmental Statement so that the proper consultation process can be followed and the public given their opportunity to contribute,” adds Cllr Beesley.