ONE OF Britain’s biggest environmental groups is backing plans for a £3 billion wind farm off the Hampshire coast.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) says the Navitus Bay scheme will create a large number of jobs as well as easing the nation’s dependence of fossil fuels, which it describes as the main reason behind soaring energy bills.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Dutch-based energy firm Eneco wants to build up to 300 wind turbines just nine miles from Bartonon- Sea.

Some of the tallest turbines will rise up to 160m out of the sea.The scheme is likely to create 100 permanent posts plus 1,000 temporary jobs during the construction period, which could start in 2017.

The Hamble-based Royal Yachting Association has voiced concerned about the potential impact on pleasure sailing. But Eneco says boating through the wind farm will be permitted as the turbines will be at least 750m apart.

Now FoE has thrown its support behind the project.

Its executive director, Andy Atkins, is due to visit Taddiford Gap, between Barton and New Milton, on Tuesday to view the proposed site and examine the area where cables connected with the scheme will come ashore.

FoE members holding miniature wind turbines will unfurl a banner saying “We Support Clean British Energy”.

Mr Atkins said: “Reaping the power of wind offers a great opportunity to wean the country off the fossil fuels that have been the main reason behind our rising energy bills.

“Developing renewable power also creates local construction and maintenance jobs which can be really significant with a huge project such as Navitus Bay.”

A planning application is due to be submitted in the next two years and the turbines could be operational by 2021 if consent is granted.

The 76sq m facility will generate enough electricity to power up to 820,000 homes – equivalent to the population of Hampshire.