Conor Burns and the Poole Harbour oil spill


Originally tweeted by thehighcliffeguy (@AdamHighcliffe) on 29/03/2023.

In 2015, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns campaigned against the Navitus wind farm proposal, along with local Conservative peers. This proposed a wind farm 10km off the Dorset coast.

He claimed it would “harm tourism”.

It was then revealed that Conor Burns was also a consultant for Trant Engineering, a firm servicing the local oil industry.

According to his MP declarations, he was still declaring income from Trant until 2019/20, earning £40k per annum.

This was the subject of a 2015 article in Private Eye, which Burns described as “mischief”.
The Bournemouth Echo printed a rebuttal from Burns at the time:

“MP Conor Burns has responded to an article implying he has opposed the Navitus Bay wind farm for personal gain.

The article, which appeared in fortnightly journal Private Eye, notes that the Bournemouth West MP “receives regular payments” from Trant Construction Ltd, an engineering firm connected with the oil and gas industry – including Wytch Farm oil field in Poole Harbour.

The company is listed in Mr Burns’ register of interests.

The article says Navitus is proposed for beds “thought suitable for oil and gas drilling”, and that despite opposing the wind farm partly on the grounds of its potential impact on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Mr Burns has not “spoken up” against plans by Infrastrata to drill for oil and gas in Swanage.

Responding to the article, Mr Burns said: “I have seen a mischievous article related to my position on Navitus.

“Any financial interest any Member of Parliament has is openly registered and made public. The only interest I have to declare on Navitus is the interest of my constituents who are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

“My first pledge on my election address was to continue to lead the opposition to it. On that pledge my vote, vote share and majority increased in May.

“I regard that as my mandate and will not be distracted by an orchestrated campaign by the ideologically obsessed Green Party to cloud the clear issue at hand.”

The Bournemouth Echo

For reference, here is the Private Eye story:

The same Trant Engineering have also managed the Wytch Farm site for years.
The one that just polluted Poole Harbour.
There’s no mention of this on their website now.
But never mind, here’s a post they shared yesterday about how they protect wildlife:

Trant website screenshot

After this week, the question of Conservative links to the oil industry may well resurface.
But either way, it’s fair to ask whether Conor Burns, Phil Broadhead and other prominent Conservative opponents of Navitus all backed the wrong horse.

Because ultimately, we need to get our energy from somewhere.

And the choice to oppose renewable energy sources is also the choice to support high-polluting energy sources.

And in Dorset this week, that choice delivered this:

So, it will be interesting to see how Conor Burns, Robert Syms, Phil Broadhead and other wind farm opponents justify their choices in the coming weeks.

They wanted to ‘save tourism’.
But tourism in the harbour is cancelled for now.
And the entire environment is at risk.