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Wind farm opponents win greater powers over “skewed” planning system  

Credit:  The Herald, www.thisisplymouth.co.uk 11 November 2010 ~~

Ministers have promised to give rural communities greater power to halt the development of unsightly wind farms developments.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon told MPs the planning system is to be reformed to take into account the “genuine local concerns” about despoiling the countryside.

He said the planning system had become “skewed”, favouring the development of giant wind turbines over protecting environmentally rich regions such as the Westcountry.

Wind farm plans have repeatedly come up against angry opposition in Devon and Cornwall.

More than 100 turbines are in operation and many more have been given approval.

Mr Benyon was pressed over proposals to “extend the power of communities to protect local rural environments”.

He was asked by Matthew Hancock, Conservative MP for the rural constituency of West Suffolk, whether he thought it “crucial” that renewable projects “are put in the right place, and that projects such as onshore wind farms are not put in spectacularly beautiful parts of the country where there is no local support”.

The Decentralism and Localism Bill, announced at the state opening of Parliament in May, will outline exactly how communities can block developments.

The Government has already scrapped controversial local and regional renewable energy targets, a policy many councils used to justify approval of wind farm plans.

Mr Benyon said: “The importance of renewables is known and agreed upon throughout the House, and the Government recognise the value of increasing the amount of electricity that we produce from renewable energy. However, we also recognise the genuine local concerns, which have to be included in the planning process. We are reforming the planning system so that it will give local communities more of a say. We want to get that balance right, because it has become skewed in recent years.” The tone struck by the minister is in stark contrast to the previous Labour Government.

When he was Energy Secretary, Labour leader Ed Miliband said opposing wind farms is “socially unacceptable”.

He added adding society should view people who blocked planning applications in the same light as drivers who refused to wear a seatbelt.

Mr Benyon added the Government is “committed to reforming the current top-down planning system”.

He said: “In particular, neighbourhood plans will give communities the freedom to bring forward more development than is set out in the local authority plan, or to introduce more localised rural environmental protection policies.”

In the summer, Energy Minister Lord Marland said the “future for this country” in terms of wind energy lies in offshore schemes rather than land-band developments.

A spokesman for Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “In the coalition agreement, the Government stated that it will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development. We will be making an announcement about the framework as soon as it has been agreed how best to take this work forward.”

Source:  The Herald, www.thisisplymouth.co.uk 11 November 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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