MORE than 600 Bournemouth residents gathered at the BIC this afternoon to discuss the Navitus Bay wind farm application.

The meeting was organised by Bournemouth Council, which as a statutory consultee will pass its views on to the planning inspectorate when they come to consider the plans, submitted by the developer earlier this week.

The audience heard from speakers for and against the application, including Navitus Bay Development Ltd project director Mike Unsworth, Roy Pointer of the Poole and Christchurch Bays' Association and Andrew Langley of campaign group Challenge Navitus.

They also had a chance to air their own views in a lengthy public session.

Council leader John Beesley, who told the meeting about the council's role on the process, said the turnout reflected the great strength of feeling among residents.

"We welcome the opportunity to listen to the views of Bournemouth residents," he said.

"They will be fed into the process so that we can reflect on them when we make our views known to the planning inspectorate.

"We have a period of time in which to make representations.

"There is a lot of data to go through and we need to make sure we have understood all that before we give an evidence-based view.

"It needs to be based on planning policy and it needs to be sustainable."

He said the views of the public expressed at the meeting, part of the council's consultation process, would have "very significant weight" with the planning inspectorate.

It is anticipated that the final decision on the application will be made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change after the next general election.

The £3billion wind farm would consist of up to 194 turbines, up to 200 metres high.

Cables would hit land at Taddiford Gap, between Barton-on-Sea and New Milton, and run 22 miles to a new sub-station at Mannington near Wimborne.

It is officially designated as a 'nationally significant' infrastructure project.

For more details of the meeting please see our live blog here.