The status of the Jurassic coast in Dorset as England’s only natural world heritage site is under threat from plans for an offshore wind farm.
Campaigners say the development, covering 60 square miles of the Channel, will dominate the view from the windswept clifftops that helped to earn the coast its protected status in 2001.
The Jurassic coast is known for its rocks and fossils, but according to the designation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), its setting is also vital. Other world heritage sites have had their designation suspended because of inappropriate development.
Unesco has written to the government seeking reassurances about the wind farm. A former official who helped to secure the designation and who has seen the government’s response says it does not address the central issue and concentrates on changes made to the development during a two-year consultation process.
Detailed plans for the Navitus Bay Wind Park, a joint venture between Eneco Wind UK and the French company EDF Energy Renewables, have been submitted to the planning inspectorate. The government is committed to offshore wind farms as part of its policy of encouraging renewable energy. The new development will lie 8.8 miles offshore between Swanage and the Needles and will occupy 45 per cent of the horizon. The 194 turbines will be 330ft tall and generate enough electricity for 710,000 homes. Campaigners say that similar wind farms in the North Sea are 12 miles offshore, where they are harder to see.