PLANS for a giant off-shore wind farm off the Hampshire coast are a step closer.
Navitus Bay Development Ltd - a joint venture between Eneco and EDF - has submitted a planning application for a £3bn wind park in the Solent.
Now the Planning Inspectorate announced it has accepted its 18,000 page formal application for development and is moving to the next major stage in considering the bid.
It means the inspectorate moves to the pre-examination stage inviting the public to register as an interested party to comment on the application and be kept informed of its process.
This stage is based on a number of legal criteria, including the adequacy of consultation undertaken by Navitus Bay.
If accepted, the site - 12 miles from Bournemouth - could include up to 194 turbines as high as 200m generating power for up to 710,000 homes a year.
As previously reported the site has been scaled back to reduce its visual impact.
Initial plans were for 218 turbines generating power for 790,000 homes - nine times the amount of properties in Bournemouth and 13 times more than the Isle of Wight.
The scheme's project director Mike Unsowrth said: “We are delighted that our Development Consent Application has been accepted for examination and it is testament to the vast amount of work undertaken by the project team and independent experts.
“While the inspectorate examines our application we will continue to work with stakeholders, businesses and residents in Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight to make sure that everyone is kept up-to-date about the project and the considerable benefits that it would bring, in terms of sustainable energy generation, job creation and economic opportunities”.
Mike Birkin, South West campaigner for Friends of the Earth also welcomed the plans and said: “This is a major step forward for this exciting project, which promises to be the biggest source of clean energy in the south of England.
“Offshore wind is huge success story for the UK, providing thousands of jobs and boosting energy security.
“We now welcome the opportunity for proper scrutiny of the proposals, which will shed light on some of the alarmist and unfounded information that has been spread by its opponents."
The registration period for interested parties starts next week and runs for a minimum 28 days.
Details of how to register will be posted on the inspectorate's website at infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/projects/south-east/navitus-bay-wind-park/