THE developer behind the planned Navitus Bay wind farm has handed back the parts of the proposed development zone that are not included in its plans.

The Crown Estate awarded an initial zone to Navitus Bay Development Ltd in 2010.

Now, NBDL has confirmed that it will return 571sqkm to The Crown Estate, which it says represents 79 per cent of the original zone.

Its planning application for the controversial scheme is currently being considered, with a decision from the Government due on or before September 11.

NBDL says the move fulfils its promise that it had no plans to build a larger project in the future.

Stuart Grant, project director for Navitus Bay, said: “Handing back control of the unused area to The Crown Estate is important to us and we will continue to actively engage in dialogue with local residents about all future decisions affecting the project.”

Huub den Rooijen, head of offshore wind at The Crown Estate, added: “Today’s announcement marks an important step for Navitus Bay as it moves to a focused project agreement and hands back the remaining seabed. The proposed schemes that the project has submitted for consent demonstrate a real commitment to the region and to the planning and consenting of projects that will help form the backbone of UK offshore wind development beyond 2020.”

Cllr John Beesley, leader of Bournemouth Borough Council, which has vigorously objected to the scheme, said: “The announcement is designed to draw attention away from the fact that Navitus Bay wants to develop one of the most environmentally sensitive parts of the seabed with a vast wind farm that is too close to shore and will severely damage the sensitive natural coastline and local economy.

“Handing back the undesirable and uneconomic parts of the seabed merely exposes Navitus Bay’s intention to develop the part of the seabed that will maximise its financial returns but will ruin a unique national asset, risk almost 5,000 local jobs and cause a total economic loss of £6.3 billion.”

Meanwhile, Labour politicians including Clare Moody, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, have again called upon the Government to back the plans.

Ms Moody has written an open letter to Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, urging her to "support the project and the skilled jobs it promises to secure for Dorset".

In her letter, the MEP writes: “On recent visits to the Port of Poole and Portland Port, both contenders for the Operation and Management contract for the array, I have been impressed by the significant positive impact on the local economy that this development would bring.

"The chance to secure a 50-year contract for these ports, providing much needed jobs and skills training for the sub-region, is a rare and very welcome opportunity.

"The construction phase alone is set to provide at least 200 jobs in an area where inward investment has been sadly lacking in recent years.

"These jobs are essential in an area where the statistics show there is a concentration of low paid and seasonal work.”

In reference to the opposition voiced by Dorset’s Conservative MPs, Ms Moody writes to Ms Rudd: “You will no doubt have been lobbied by local MPs who are opposed to this project. I am sorry to say that their objections are not grounded in facts. In particular, much has been said about the potential damage to the status of World Heritage site attached to the Jurassic Coast.

"I contend that the biggest threat to the remarkable Dorset coastline is from inaction to counter the threats of climate change.”

Ms Moody has discussed her support for the project with Labour councillors in Dorset, who, she says, back her position.

The leaders of the Labour groups at Dorset County Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have now written to South Dorset MP Richard Drax, requesting that he reconsider his opposition to the project.

In a letter dated August 5, councillors Paul Kimber and Mike Byatt write: “Opportunities like these for inward investment into our local economy come all too infrequently.

"We are extremely disappointed that rather than doing your utmost to ensure that these jobs are attracted to your constituency, you are actively working against this project.

"It is not too late for you to do the right thing and get behind the Navitus Bay scheme by joining us in lobbying your Minister of State, Amber Rudd MP, to give consent to a project that will not only be a significant contributor to our on-going energy needs but will create much needed jobs.”