The number of wind turbines will treble under the Coalition’s planning reforms, campaigners have warned.
Experts say more than 4,500 turbines will be built to meet the Government’s climate change targets as it adopts “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”.
The planning policy has been criticised by groups such as the National Trust and concerns are growing among senior Conservative MPs about its impact on the countryside.
The draft national planning framework states that local authorities should identify “suitable areas for regeneration” where it will be easier to get planning permission for wind farms. A separate analysis by the Department of Energy and Climate Change says the reforms are essential to “deliver the infrastructure we need to reduce our carbon emissions”. The renewable energy strategy states that onshore wind power will need to supply up to 13GW of Britain’s energy by 2020.
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity publishing data on the energy sector, said the target would mean building 4,500 new wind turbines. At present Britain has 2,000 wind turbines.
Dr Constable said the new policy was designed to make it easier for developers to build turbines against the wishes of local people who fear damage to views, tourism and even health problems.
“The UK’s planning system prevents development where the damage of the proposal exceeds the benefits,” he said.
“It would be very foolish to distort the planning process as a quick fix for a broken energy policy or, worse still, to produce unsustainable flash-in-the-pan economic growth.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “It is wrong to suggest the presumption in favour of sustainable development is a green light for wind turbines, or any other type of development.
“Strong environmental safeguards remain as part of the planning system, and all development will still need to meet a test of sustainability, including protecting communities and the environment from unacceptable proposals.”
The Campaign to Protect Rural England fears wind turbines, pylons and roads could cover the countryside. “One would assume the default ‘yes to development’ applies to wind farms as it does with all kinds of development like roads and housing,” said a spokesman. Bill Cash MP warned that the increase in turbines would lead to “mass desecration of the countryside”.