A secret study claims that Cumbria could accommodate 200 new wind turbines.
The North West Regional Assembly argues that parts of the north west, west and south of the county – where there are already windfarms – could accommodate more.
It has also identified four new areas for “significant” windfarm developments but is not saying where.
The News & Star understands, however, that one is north-east of Brampton towards RAF Spadeadam.
The four sites are named in a draft renewable-energy study.
As work is still in progress, this is not a public document and is not covered by freedom of information legislation.
A spokesman for the assembly said: “It is an unfinished research study. It is not our policy to publish the discussions and formulations of unfinished studies.
“The strategy will, however, be published later this summer and we will be happy to discuss it then.”
Cumbria County Council has been consulted on the draft and has serious concerns. A report to the council’s cabinet says only one suggested site is suitable for large-scale windfarms.
A second “could have scope for a small wind-energy scheme” but the other two are “inappropriate”.
Head of environment Shaun Gorman is worried that the regional assembly is not giving enough weight to the harm windfarms might do to tourism.
His report says: “There could be far-reaching effects on the economy of Cumbria if the scale of development suggested is to be accommodated. Much of Cumbria’s economy is based on the high quality of the environment.”
The study was prompted by government targets to generate a fifth of energy from renewables by 2020.
It covers other forms of renewable energy such as biomass, energy from waste and hydro.
But it is the proposals for wind turbines that are likely to prove controversial.
The study says there is scope for 392 new turbines across the region – 196 in Cumbria, 84 in Cheshire, 60 in Lancashire, 28 in Merseyside and 24 in Greater Manchester.
But national parks and designated areas of outstanding natural beauty are ruled out, including the Lake District and the Solway coast.
The study claims that 392 turbines would add an extra 784 megawatts of electricity generating capacity.
It accepts, however, difficulties in getting planning permission and objections from the Ministry of Defence mean 196 new turbines is a more “pragmatic” target.
This last statement was welcomed by Ian Stewart, the cabinet member for environmental wellbeing, when the county council’s cabinet met in Carlisle yesterday.
He said: “It seems the regional assembly has heard what Cumbria has to say. We are a large county but huge parts are constrained [from windfarm developments].
“There may well have to be more windfarms in Cumbria but I’m very confident there won’t be as many as originally anticipated.”
The plans have already received a frosty response from anti-windfarm groups.
Aspatria campaigner Gerry Sewell, of Country Guardian, said: “This is a totally horrific prospect that could be the death knell for tourism in scenic areas of the county.”
By Julian Whittle
11 June 2008