COUNCILLORS in the New Forest have criticised the Navitus Bay wind farm plans – but have stopped short of making a formal objection.

Critics complained that the construction of the Navitus Bay scheme would result in an extra 150 lorries a day travelling through Lyndhurst, one of the Forest’s biggest bottlenecks.

They also warned that the installation of an on-shore underground cable would create a 40m scar across the district’s countryside.

Members of New Forest District Council were debating a report into the potential impact of the scheme.

They decided not to lodge a formal objection but reserved the right to lobby a planning inquiry due to start in Bournemouth this week.

Council chiefs will speak at the hearing if talks with Navitus Bay Development Ltd, which is trying to minimise the impact of the scheme, fail to resolve any outstanding issues.

Local authorities in other parts of the region, including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Purbeck, have raised strong objections to the application. But the report to New Forest councillors said that its impact on the district would not be severe enough to warrant an official protest.

One member who took issue with the report was Cllr Steve Clarke, who represents New Milton.

He said: “Yes, there’s a split in public opinion. But people who live and work in the area are generally against Navitus Bay.”

Cllr Clarke cited the impact of the on-shore cable, which would link the wind farm with a National Grid sub-station.

He added: “Its installation would create a corridor at least 40m wide. It would go through hedgerow and woodland and a substantial number of trees would be removed. It would leave a permanent scar around New Milton.”

Cllr Alan Rice,  who also represents the town, said that the cable would have a “devastating” impact.

Addressing some of the concerns raised at the meeting, council officers said that an extra 150 lorries a day passing through Lyndhurst would be “negligible” compared with the total amount of traffic. Asked about the on-shore cable, they said that new planting would reduce the width of the corridor to 20m. The Navitus Bay scheme could see as many as 194 turbines as tall as 200m built off the coast.

If the scheme is approved by the government the turbines would generate enough electricity to power 710,000 homes.

n The inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate into the scheme starts with an ‘open floor meeting’ tomorrow 10am to 7.30pm, at the BIC’s Tregonwell Hall. Doors open at 9am. There are 84 people registered to speak.