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BOSSES behind controversial plans for a huge wind farm off the Hampshire coast have launched a £1 million study of the sea bed.

Navitus Bay Development Ltd (NBDL) is drilling bore holes and extracting material in a bid to devise to most suitable foundations for the 194 turbines.

A specialist survey vessel called Horizon GeoBay is fitted with water jets that keep it stationary, helping the crew to perform more accurate drilling.

Bore holes of various depths will enable experts to obtain 15 different sets of samples and compile a detailed analysis of the sea bed.

It comes after NBDL had its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) accepted for examination by Government planners.

Project director Mike Unsworth said: “In parallel with seeking consent for the project, it's vital that we continue to gather additional information about the site conditions to help inform our detailed design of the proposed offshore wind park.

“This latest investigation is the next step in the process of engineering an optimum design for the wind turbine foundations.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, the proposed wind farm will occupy a 60 square mile site west of the Isle of Wight.

It will generate enough low carbon electricity to power around 710,000 homes, offsetting approximately 1,290,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

But 650ft tall turbines will be just 14.5 miles from Lymington and less than 12 miles from Milford on Sea.

The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) has hit out at the visual impact of the turbines.

Members have also raised concerns about an underground cable linking the wind farm with a National Grid sub-station north of Ferndown in Dorset.

Cllr Pat Wyeth, chairman of the NPA's planning committee, said the cable would create a “permanent scar” across the Forest.

The Government's Planning Inspectorate will spend the next eight months examining the proposals before submitting its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Energy.

If planning permission is granted construction work is likely to begin in 2017, with the first turbines starting to generate electricity two years later.