The Planning Inspectorate has ruled that the Navitus Bay Turbine Area mitigation option can be examined alongside the original application for a larger South Coast wind farm.
The decision comes despite campaigners calling for it to be considered separately, not ‘tacked onto’ the existing examination.
The examining body announced that the additional option ‘does amount to a material change but not to the point of constituting a new application. It can therefore be included in the examination as part of the application received by the Planning Inspectorate.’
Developers behind the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park scheme submitted the smaller scheme’s plans in November 2014, in addition to Navitus Bay Development Limited’s original application for development consent.
The original 970MW scheme proposes up to 194, 200m-tall wind turbines situated off the coasts of Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, generating an estimated 3.0TWh of electricity a year, enough to power around 700,000 average UK households.
The new 630MW scheme would have a maximum of 105 turbines and has a reduced turbine area from 153sq km to 79sq km.
The mitigation option follows criticism that the scheme would adversely impact the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
Professor Denys Brunsden, who as first chairman of the Dorset Coast Forum worked to secure the World Heritage Site status, said: ‘A new layout can be interpreted as an admission that the impact on the site is sufficient to encourage them to reduce the scheme by 35%. The statement by Navitus that it still supports the original proposal even though it now appears to admit that a threat exists is inexplicable.’
The Challenge Navitus opposition group said: ‘Even Plan B would be a very large wind farm close to a highly sensitive coast. Concerns over environmental impacts may not be satisfied by the changes, and the onshore disruption from the cables would presumably remain the same.’
Mike Unsworth, Navitus Bay project director, said: ‘The 970MW scheme will continue to be examined as part of the ongoing planning process and the overall timings of that process remain unchanged.
‘Ultimately, it will be for the Secretary of State to decide which option strikes the right balance in terms of potential benefits and impacts.’
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