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Campaigners braced for marathon hearing over Navitus Bay wind farm

Campaigners for and against the wind farm planned for the Dorset coast are readying themselves for a marathon meeting today.

The open floor hearing will see the planning process for the Navitus Bay wind farm get under way in earnest.

The doors to the Tregonwell Hall at the Bournemouth International Centre open at 9am for a 10am start, with the meeting set to run until 7.30pm.

Because the proposal is a major infrastructure project, the government’s Planning Inspectorate is overseeing the application.

If it is built, Navitus Bay would see as many as 194 wind turbines as high as 200 metres located 12 miles from Christchurch, 13 from Bournemouth and Poole and nine from Swanage.

Today is the start of a process that will run until March before the Planning Inspectorate goes away to consider its decision.

The meeting will see registered parties take to the floor for three minutes each – 84 have requested to speak. They include residents and representatives of a host of organisations both for and against the plans.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood is registered to speak, as is his colleague for Christchurch, Chris Chope MP. Councillors from various authorities will also speak, including Bournemouth Borough Council leader John Beesley.

The applicant, Navitus Bay Development Ltd, will get the chance to respond at the end of each session, which is around an hour long.

Debate over the proposals has already been raging for some years, with vigorous opposition coming from the Challenge Navitus group and Poole and Christchurch Bays Association on a wide range of issues, such as visual impact, environmental concerns and damage to the economy.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Bournemouth council has also made vocal arguments against the plans, saying that the town’s tourism-based economy will be badly hit – it claims £100 million a year will be lost, along with 2,000 jobs.

Support has come from East Dorset Friends of the Earth, which says that renewable energy must be pursued and has accused politicians of going against their own agreed green energy policies.

Yesterday, Simon Bowkett, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for south Dorset, and Clare Moody, the party’s MEP for the south west, both came out in support and called on MPs and councillors across the county to get behind the development.

After today’s hearing, the process moves into specific meetings about areas including visual impact, heritage, the environment, noise, fishing and water and air quality.

There will also be site visits during the process.

• Follow live coverage of the meeting today at the Echo website: bournemouthecho.co.uk.