The ‘plan B’ for Dorset’s wind farm proposals will not be considered as a new scheme in its own right, inspectors have ruled.
Objectors had hoped Navitus Bay Development Ltd (NBDL) would be made to submit a new planning application for its scaled-down ‘mitigation option’ rather than having it considered as an amendment to the existing scheme.
Planning inspectors agree that the revised scheme is a “material change” but not enough to require a new application. They are allowing extra time for interested parties to make representations.
Although NBDL says it remains committed to its original plans, which involve as many as 194 turbines up to 200m high, it has proposed a smaller development of 105 turbines, 11 miles from shore rather than nine.
Mike Unsworth, project director for Navitus, 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.”
He said either scheme would make an important contribution to the local economy and the UK’s renewable energy targets.
“In the case of the original proposal, that amounts to a £1.62billion boost to the local economy over the project’s life time and the creation of a minimum of 1,700 jobs,” he added.
A letter from Ava Wood, lead member of the panel of examining inspectors, ruled the scaled-back scheme could be considered as part of the original application.
“Given the extent of reduction in the number of turbines, and in installed capacity, the Examining Authority accepts that the proposal for the Turbine Area Mitigation Option constitutes material change,” the letter said.
“However, the Examining Authority does not consider that the materiality of the change applied for is of such a degree that it constitutes a new application.”
It added that “anyone affected by the amended proposal should have a fair opportunity to have their views known and properly taken into account”.
Additional representations from registered ‘interested parties’ on the amended scheme can be submitted by February 5. Those who are not registered as interested parties can also submit written representations, as long as they relate only to the Turbine Area Mitigation Option.
Comments on these additional representations must then be submitted by March 5.
Roy Pointer, chair of the Poole and Christchurch Bays Association said: “We are baffled at the decision, which flies in the face of democratic consultation. A huge number of respondents – including councils, MPs, NGOs and residents’ groups – strongly urged that Plan B should be subject to a fresh application and full consultation process.
“This has been widely reported in the Echo. It is quite astonishing that such a huge industrial project, in such an environmentally and economically sensitive area, should not be subject to local discussion.
“We, and hopefully the record number of those registered to oppose the Navitus development, will redouble our efforts to see it consigned to the dustbin.”
Angela Pooley, from East Dorset Friends of the Earth, said: “While we still fully support the original plans, East Dorset FoE welcomes this sensible decision by the Planning Inspectorate and trusts that the same commonsense prevails and their final decision will be for the Wind Farm to go ahead.”
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