DEVELOPERS have taken the next step in the process that could see a new wind farm off the coast of Dorset.

Navitus Bay Development Ltd officially entered into a memoranda of understanding with three local ports yesterday Portland, Poole and Yarmouth.

The three were shortlisted as potential sites to host the wind park’s operation and maintenance work last summer.

The formal agreement will mean the developer will undertake studies with the three sites to explore how their facilities could be best used in both the construction and operation and maintenance phases of the wind park.

To this end, Navitus will be investing £100,000 in feasibility studies across the three sites.

The studies will look at different factors, that the developers say are critical to the construction and maintenance of the wind park, including: space available, depth of water and storage facilities and how these could be altered or improved to accommodate the wind farm’s requirements.

Ports will also keep areas at their site free for Navitus Bay’s use from 2017 onwards as part of the agreement.

A spokesman for the wind park said that the project could potentially bring a minimum of 1,700 jobs while in the construction phase, and during operation and maintenance the project could support around support around 140 jobs annually.

The project has been met with opposition with people concerned that, at nine miles from the coast of Swanage, it could dominate the view from much of Purbeck and other beauty spots nearby.

In February, Navitus said they would be removing the uppermost triangle of the planned site, making it further off the coast.

This led to the National Trust saying it welcomed the reduction in scale of the project but would ‘like to see more done to reduce the impact of the wind farm.’

Speaking about the memorandum of understanding, General Manager of Portland Harbour Authority, Ian McQuade, said: “The signing of the memoranda is an important step along the road to realising one of the biggest economic opportunities Portland and Dorset is likely to see for many years.

Portland Port hopes that this is just the first of a number of agreements that will culminate in commercial activities taking place at the port in support of the Navitus Bay wind park.”

Project Director at Navitus Bay, Mike Unsworth, said: “We first shortlisted Portland, Poole and Yarmouth to host the operation and maintenance base last year, and we are thrilled to be formalising our commitment to working with all three by signing these memoranda of understanding.

“Our ultimate aim is to enter into a contract with one, or a combination, of these three ports that says they will accommodate construction and installation activities and host the operation and maintenance base.”