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Government’s promised tax cut bid to silence wind farm protests

Rural communities that agree to wind farms in their midst have been promised council tax discounts to counter fierce opposition to the technology.

Energy minister Charles Hendry yesterday said he wanted to end the “hectoring” approach over agreeing to giant turbines to encourage residents to accept them voluntarily.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said opposing wind farms was as “socially unacceptable” as drivers who refused to wear a seatbelt.

Under the plans, business rates paid by owners of wind farms would be channelled back into the community rather than going to the Treasury.

The money could be used to reduce council tax bills or to invest in local services.

In a House of Commons debate, Mr Hendry said it was “imperative” that local communities had an “active engagement” in the placement of onshore turbines

He told MPs: “There has been a democratic deficit in the way this policy has been driven forward in the past.

“We want to move on from the hectoring approach which was taken by the last administration.

“Wind farms should be put in the appropriate locations.”

With vast open spaces and windy conditions, the Westcountry has long been considered fertile ground by developers.

But planning approvals have slumped in the last year, despite the need to build thousands of turbines to meet green energy targets, against opposition from campaign groups. There are around 20 groups in Devon and Cornwall alone.

A new code of practice for developers will ensure that communities are offered a share of income from the wind farm.

Planning reform under the Localism Bill will give councils more powers to reject developers and build their own wind farms for profit.

The Government also plans to reform subsidies so wind farms are encouraged to build in isolated, windy places, rather than close to the grid where there are more likely to be houses.

But a National Association of Wind Farm Action Groups spokesman said: “It is utterly naive of the energy minister to imagine that local communities, who have shown the strength of their opposition throughout the UK to inappropriately sited wind farms, to imagine that community funds can buy off their opposition.”