THE developer behind the controversial Navitus Bay wind farm has offered payments to marine companies, the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal.

Navitus Bay Development Ltd has denied that it is an attempt to win favour with firms, insisting that it is “standard good practice”.

But opposition groups say the confidential letter, seen by the Echo, is an admission by NBDL that its operations will have a negative impact.

It is now being questioned as to why businesses in other sectors – such as tourism and hospitality – have not been offered similar deals.

The Echo has previously reported concerns from Bournemouth Borough Council over the impact on the town’s tourism trade.

Mike Francis, president of Bournemouth Tourism Management Board, said: “From the tourism point of view their own figures of what we will lose in tourism were 14 per cent – and that’s their figures.

“My personal opinion is they will take it on the low side, but the tourism from Swanage to Poole and Bournemouth and along is £1.46 billion income per annum.

If they took five years (to build) and they say 14 per cent per annum, you’ve got, over five years, £1 billion.

“Are they going to compensate us with £1 billion?”

Bruce Grant-Braham, chairman of Poole Tourism Partnership, added: “Navitus’ own figures have demonstrated that they believe there will be a drop off in tourism in the construction phase and maybe in the operational phase.

“They have made it clear that there will be mitigation finances to the tourism sector, but what that will be I don’t know.

“We plan to hold them to that.

“They say the impact will be minimal, but we understand they may be more than minimal.

“They are not hiding behind a smoke screen as far as we’re concerned.”

Tony Williams, chief executive of Bournemouth Borough Council, said it was an “interesting development” but that he could not comment specifically on the letter.

“However, when we are invited to comment on the application by the Planning Inspectorate, in considering our response we will weigh up the national benefits of the scheme against its impacts, making sure that we protect jobs and the Bournemouth economy,” he added.

Come to meeting

OPPOSITION groups have blasted the payments.

Poole and Christchurch Bays Association spokesman Philip Dewhurst said: “We are shocked, but not surprised by this admission. It shows, yet again, that NBDL recognises the catastrophic damage this industrialisation will cause to our economy.

“We urge people to come along to the public meeting at the BIC at 2pm on May 10 to make their feelings known.”

David Lloyd from Challenge Navitus said: “It’s good to hear NBDL confirm that their plans will have a devastating impact on businesses. But why only offer to compensate diving companies when they represent only a tiny percentage of businesses that will suffer?”

‘We are a responsible developer’

MIKE Unsworth, project director of Navitus Bay, which has now submitted its planning application, said: “As a responsible developer, we aim to work with businesses we have identified.

“This includes informing them of our likely works timetable, establishing if construction will impact on their business and, if so, mitigating any impacts on them.

“I would like to stress this is certainly not an attempt to win favour with local companies.

“It is standard good practice for a developer to consider if they can mitigate impacts on businesses which may be disrupted directly as a result of the development.

“Discussions are confidential because these businesses will need to share with us commercially sensitive information to establish whether they stand to lose money as a result of our activities.”

He said a “small number” had identified that they could be impacted and NBDL was talking to them.

“The potential for financial support applies solely to businesses whose offshore operations will be directly affected by particular construction operations, so it is not something that will be extended to other businesses that do not operate in those offshore areas,” Mr Unsworth added.