The Navitus Bay wind farm plan has been thrown into confusion after a new scheme was put forward to reduce the farm’s size.
In the original plan, 194 turbines were proposed to be positioned nine miles from the Dorset coast.
Now under ‘Plan B’ only 105 turbines will be built and they will be 11 miles further away from the shore.
Under the new plan there will also be a 35% drop in the amount of energy generated at the farm.
But ‘Plan B’ is disputed by Bournemouth Borough Council and locally elected MPs, after it emerged that developers had not carried out any environmental assessments for the new plan or consulted the public on the changes.
And in another twist, inspectors now agree that ‘Plan B’, also known as the ‘Turbine Area Mitigation Option’, could go ahead as the changes do not warrant a new planning application.
‘Plan B’ was put forward by Navitus Bay as an alternative option to their original application.
This new scheme would contain almost half the amount of wind turbines than first suggested.
But Mike Unsworth, the Navitus Bay Project Director, highlighted that the group’s original plan is still the main scheme in contention.
He said: “We are pleased that the Planning Inspectorate has agreed to consider our alternative option for fewer turbines, further offshore, as part of our original planning application.
“While this proposal provides a second option for consideration in that process, it does not replace our original proposal.”
Bournemouth Borough Council have gone as far as to suggest that ‘Plan B’ was illegal because business surveys and assessments had not being made.
Commenting on ‘Plan B’, Leader of Bournemouth Borough Council Councillor John Beesley said: “The magnitude of the scheme - even in a slightly reduced form – will have substantial impacts on our beautiful bay, tourism industry and local economy.”
Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said on Twitter: “Very disappointing that Planning Inspectorate has ignored the views of elected MPs to allow Navitus to sneak their insurance policy in.”
Navitus Bay Development Limited has been subject to much criticism due to its wind farm proposals.
If the company’s original plan was to go ahead it would be the biggest offshore wind farm in the world.
The proposed wind farm will lie between Purbeck and the Isle of Wight.
Challenge Navitus, a campaign group made up of members of the public, are trying to stop the proposal altogether and claims there are alternative solutions to the wind farm. The campaign group suggest that tourism in the area will decline and will have a knock-on affect on the local economy.
On their website, the group said: “The environment’s financial value far exceeds any potential financial benefit from a wind farm.
“A tiny decline in tourism would completely swamp any gain from the wind farm, and tourism is only a fraction of the total economic picture.”
But Angela Pooley, member of the Friends of the Earth group in East Dorset, does not believe a new formal planning application is necessary for the revised Navitus Bay plans.
She said: “Navitus submitted the revised plans at the request of the Planning Inspectorate and therefore should be considered as part of the current Inspection.
“To submit a new application would further delay a decision, something the opposition are hoping for, at a time when we should be investing in renewable technology.
“Whilst we accept that work needs to be done to ensure that all work is carried out in an environmentally sensitive way, especially the on-shore work, our view has always been that the benefits of the scheme far outweigh any negative impacts that we believe have been greatly exaggerated and in some cases are inaccurate.”