Local communities have no chance of fighting “unwanted” on-shore wind farms” under the Government’s planning reforms, a group of academics, politicians and celebrities warns today.
An alliance of prominent public figures, including Dr David Bellamy, the environmentalist, and Sian Lloyd, the weather presenter, is today sending a letter to the Prime Minister urging a re-think of new planning rules.
The 33 signatories of the letter fear changes to the planning system will make it easier to build on the countryside.
A key concern is that the new National Planning Policy Framework “diminishes the chances of local people defeating unwanted on-shore wind farm proposals through the planning system”.
They are also calling for the generous £400 million-per-year subsidies for on-shore wind farms to be spread between more reliable green sources of energy and measures to cut gas and electricity use.
The alliance is speaking out in support of the 100 MPs who raised concerns about wind farms.
It includes Lord Carlile of Berriew, the Government’s independent terrorism adviser, Lord Marlesford of Marlesford, a former Downing Street adviser, several MEPs, five regional chairmen of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and numerous academics.
Their intervention is likely to heap more pressure on the Prime Minister, who is trying to quell a growing backbench rebellion over wind farms installed in fields across Britain.
David Cameron met conservative MPs on Monday to hear their concerns about the spread of wind farms.
Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry, who led the movement against on-shore wind, said he was hopeful that there would be changes to the planning reforms.
“We heard a little about what might be in the new National Planning Policy Framework and how this could help local communities resist onshore wind projects in the future,” he said.
“We also heard about how local councils might be able to designate areas for renewable energy projects in the future and indeed, choose what sort of renewable projects they would be happy with. Obviously there is work still ongoing on the [planning reforms] and I’m now more hopeful that it will reflect the spirit (if not the wording) of the amendments we suggested in our letter.”
Mr Cameron reaffirmed his commitment to generating energy from wind in a reply to the 100 MPs last week.
He claimed there are “perfectly hard-headed reasons” for building more on-shore wind farms.
Mr Cameron said he favoured wind power regardless of Britain’s European Union targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will be achieved by shutting down old coal stations and replacing them with “greener” energy.
However, critics of wind farms claim they are inefficient because the weather dictates when they can produce energy and they need to be backed up with other sources of electricity. Local communities often complain that turbines blight their landscape and cause too much noise.
The cost of wind farms is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer through energy bills.
There is no compensation for those living near a wind farm, unlike in Denmark. There are currently two bills proposed by a backbencher and a peer suggesting a minimum distance between a wind turbine and a dwelling.
However, the Government has officially rejected the idea of a separation distance for England.