THE risk to shipping of the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park has been considerably underestimated, with recreational craft being ignored, it has been alleged.

The claims came to light as the Planning Inspectorate’s issue-specific hearings, which continue in Bournemouth this week, looked at the navigational impact of the plans.

Challenge Navitus, one of the organisations opposed to the scheme, which would see as many as 194 turbines up to 200 metres high off the Dorset coast, commissioned Brookes Bell Safety at Sea to review the Navigational Risk Assessment provided by developers Navitus Bay Development Ltd (NBDL) and carried out by consultants Anatec.

Penned by Dr Kieran Dodworth, a naval architect, and Captain Daniel Millett, a master mariner, the Brookes Bell report said that all items required had been addressed, but ‘certain aspects of the NRA are deficient’.

Primarily, it said, recreational craft had not been considered – those vessels, the report said are ‘by far the most numerous using the area and amongst the most vulnerable to collisions’.

It also said that the risk of pollution from collisions was under-estimated.

Dr Andrew Langley, of Challenge Navitus, said: “The Navitus Bay wind farm is in an area that is exceptional for its mixture of recreational and commercial vessels and Challenge Navitus has been concerned about the navigational risks of this proposal since the start.”

He added: “This issue was discussed in the examination hearing on Thursday and it was agreed that the independent experts would try to reach a common understanding before reporting back to the examiners.”

Mike Unsworth, project director, said NBDL ‘strongly dispute’ the claims and that its assessment was comprehensive and covered the safety of recreational craft.

He added: “In addition, the methodology and conclusions of our assessment have been agreed with key representatives from the maritime community, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Trinity House, the Chamber of Shipping, the Royal Yachting Association and the Cruising Association.

“We are not yet clear about the methodology Challenge Navitus used to undertake their assessment, but we will work to address any queries they may have as part of the ongoing examination process.”

The latest revelation in the issue-specific hearings follows Bournemouth Borough Council’s claims that NBDL’s ‘plan B’, which would limit the scheme to 105 turbines further out to sea, should be taken off the table and examined alone.