Protestors fighting plans for a wind farm between Burnham-On-Sea and Brent Knoll this week claimed the local tourism industry would be put at “significant risk” if the scheme gets the go-ahead.

The claim came during the latest spat in a long-running war-of-words between the KNOll to Wind Farm Action Group and Ecotricity, the company proposing the five turbines.

The protest group said tourism employment accounts for over a quarter of jobs in Sedgemoor and added: “Research from around the world – including USA, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Scotland and in Cumbria – indicates that the presence of wind farms can have a negative impact on tourism.”

The proposed five wind turbines at Brent Knoll [Pic: Ecotricity]“For example, the Cumbria Tourism Board’s Tourism Business Performance Survey 2004-Quarter 4 indicates that 39% of tourism-based businesses in the area believe wind farms will deter tourists completely.”

“Even the survey often quoted by proponents of wind farms, undertaken by MORI on behalf of the pro-wind farm Scottish Renewables Forum and British Wind Energy Association in September 2002 covering the Scottish islands of Argyll and Bute indicates that eight per cent of those surveyed felt the wind farms at the time had a generally negative or completely negative effect on their impression of the island as a place to visit, and 2% said they would be less likely to visit again in the future. A similar percentage was unsure.”

The KNOll to Wind Farm Action Group also pointed out that an independent review of this MORI survey showed the survey only involved 307 people, over half of whom were not even aware of the wind farms; thereby making the percentage of those expressing a negative view much more significant.

Andrew Manning, spokesperson for the KNOll to Wind Farm Action Group, said: “It is important to remember that most businesses make very small profit margins, often less than five per cent of their turnover. Relatively small falls in sales (especially from the discerning visitors) could quickly destroy profitability and impact the viability of a business.”

“Even a very small percentage fall in visitors to the area might be expected to wipe out the profitability of many local tourist businesses, creating unemployment, personal distress, and a strain on local government.”

“Even the best-case surveys produced by the pro-wind lobby seem to indicate this may happen. This seems another unnecessary risk, and reinforces our view that the area between Burnham and Brent Knoll is not an appropriate site for a wind farm.”

Dale Vince, Managing Director of EcotricityBut in an interview with Burnham-On-Sea.com, Dale Vince, Managing Director of Ecotricity, disputed the claims that tourism would be adversely affected.

“The Knoll group claim that research from around the world indicates that wind farms affect tourism negatively – they then quote from just two studies here in the UK, the first in Cumbria.”

“The figure they give is that 39% of tourism businesses ‘believe’ their will be a negative impact – not that they have experienced one, just that they believe there might be one – what is that really proof of? Certainly not an actual impact from wind farms, of which Cumbria has many and therefore respondents would be well placed to answer the more relevent question – has there been an impact?”

“The Knoll group then go on the quote the MORI survey in Scotland, and provide only the figures for those people that believed wind farms had a negative impact (8%) and those who might be less inclined to visit (2%) – but they failed to report the percentage of people who held the opposite views which showed 43% thought windfarms were postive, 43% felt they made no difference and 91% said it would make no difference to their liklihood of visiting. Quite staggeringly bigger numbers and you can see why Knoll would rather leave these out.”

“The Knoll group claim surveys around the world back them up, they cite just two from the UK, the first one is not about actual tourists’ views or responses and the second one is so selectively reported on as to be distorted beyond recognition. Knoll should truly be ashamed of themselves.”

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