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Council pours scorn on new Navitus Bay jobs and skills fund

Bournemouth council has poured scorn on a pledge from the company behind the Navitus wind farm to plough almost £9million into jobs and skills.

Navitus Bay, which is awaiting a decision on its planned turbines off the Dorset coast, said the money would maximise the job creation potential of the scheme.

An £8.6m fund for skills and ‘supply chain engagement’ would be a condition of planning permission being granted. The government is expected to announce a decision in September.

There would be a £4.3m skills fund to help meet the skills and employment needs of the project. A skills forum, which met for the first time yesterday, will bring together representatives from councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, education bodies and suppliers.

The other £4.3m will go to a supply chain engagement fund, promoting opportunities for local business to be involved in the project.

Mike Unsworth, project director for Navitus Bay, said: “Navitus Bay is committed to ensuring that the economic benefits of the project are felt across the south coast. This includes opening up supply chain opportunities to the local business community and ensuring that the skills and training needed to ensure job creation are provided.”

But Cllr John Beesley, leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, claimed the Navitus scheme would cost 10 jobs for every one it would create.

He said: “An £8.6m skills and supply chain engagement fund does little to allay the £6.3billion national economic loss this deeply unpopular and flawed development is forecast to bring.”

He said there should be a tourism fund to compensate for the effect on the industry.

“The tourism businesses in the destination areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Purbeck have identified £975m as the figure necessary to address the tourism mitigation and give a chance of replacing the forecast losses in tourism business over the 30 year life of the project,” he said.

“Navitus Bay continues to ignore the fact that almost 5,000 jobs will be lost across Dorset if its offshore wind farm is developed. Its own research forecasts a 20-32 per cent drop in visitor numbers.”

But the fund has been welcomed by Isle of Wight Council, whose economic development project officer, Chris Brammall, said: “For the region to gain maximum economic benefit from this exciting project, it is vital that the necessary skills are in place. Navitus Bay, working with their partners in the skills forum, will ensure that this is the case.”

Yesterday, the National Grid warned that Britain needs to take action to make sure the lights stay on this winter.

The gap between electricity generating capacity and peak demand would fall to just 1.2 per cent without special measures in place, because of the number of power stations closed since last year, it said.

Those measures would include paying for mothballed power plants to be ready to come online and paying factories to be prepared to power down if needed.

With those extra measures in place for times of peak demand, the capacity margin would rise to 5.1 per cent, the National Grid’s assessment showed.

Last year’s capacity margin was 4.1 per cent without additional provisions, which raised the breathing space to 6.1 per cent.

This winter the margins will be tighter, due to the closure of power stations.

Cordi O’Hara, National Grid’s director of market operation, said: “It’s clear that electricity margins for that coldest, darkest half hour of winter are currently tighter than they have been, due to power stations closures.”