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Councils 'in dark' over wind farm

23 February 09 10:55 GMT

Councils have expressed their disappointment at not being consulted on plans to build a £175m wind farm off the Dorset coast.

A zone, 10 miles off Poole Harbour, has been identified as one of nine areas of "economic potential for wind farm development" in a recent report.

The report was produced by the National Grid for The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed up to 12 miles offshore.

Four local councils have called for an open debate on the proposal.

A joint statement was issued by the councils of Poole, Bournemouth, Purbeck and Christchurch in response to the "West of Isle of Wight" wind farm proposal.

'Open debate'

It said they were "key stakeholders" representing local people, committed to sustaining the natural environment and working to support local employment and tourism industry.

"We are collectively disappointed that no approach appears to have been made... to either advise us of these plans or seek our views and the views of local residents, partners and businesses," it read.

"We understand from our own enquiries that the programme is at public consultation stage until 22 April."

It called for an "open debate around the potential benefits or disadvantages of this particular plan, and any resulting positive or negative impacts locally on people, jobs and our environment, is entered into before it is taken any further".

It urged the Crown Estates to ensure the current consultation includes direct discussion with the councils and ensures the views of local people, partners and industry, are taken into account.

The proposal forms part of a government idea to generate 25 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind farms.

In the Poole plan, electricity would be brought ashore at a substation at Chickerell.

The Crown Estate has agreed to invest up to 50% of the cost of obtaining planning consent for wind farm sites.

A spokeswoman for The Crown Estate said there were no formal plans for a wind farm off the coast of Dorset, other than that they had identified a zone.

She said some 96 potential developers had expressed an interest in the nine zones but that a sustainable energy assessment would need to be completed by the government before [wind farms] are given the go-ahead.

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