Cumbria has 90 commercial windfarms, with at least another 49 on the way – and the leader of the county council says enough is enough.
Councillor Eddie Martin has written to the minister for decentralisation to complain about government plans to allow windfarm applications to be pushed through regardless of local opposition.
As well as the 139 windfarms which have already been granted planning permission, there are a further 46 applications awaiting a decision, he said.
On behalf of the county council, Mr Martin is calling for the coalition to urgently reconsider its position.
In an open letter to Greg Clark MP, he said: “I would not wish, of course, to question the expertise, integrity or professionalism of the planning inspectorate but it remains difficult, nonetheless, to convince local communities and indeed local politicians that public inquiries of windfarm applications are no more than cosmetic exercises, that the government (of any persuasion) is obsessed with EU imposed targets, and that the concept of local democracy appears to be quite meaningless.
“In short, and despite the palliative rhetoric and occasional panaceas, central government is simply not listening. And that is profoundly depressing. And fundamentally undemocratic.”
Mr Martin points out the ‘invariably futile’ public inquiries are also expensive as the local planning authority has to foot the £60,000 bill.
The county council is calling for an end to ‘over-reliance’ on windfarms and a reduction in wind-related targets.
It wants investment in other low carbon energy generation to be increased.
Mr Martin raises the issue that Cumbrian taxpayers are subsidising windfarms by £32 per household a year, and questions what they get back in return.
The subsidies are paid even when they turbines are not producing electricity.
Mr Martin does not query the need for greener energy, just the government’s apparent determination to make windfarms the preferred option.
He argues that taxes would be more wisely spent on alternatives such as nuclear power and said a two or three reactor station at Sellafield would eliminate the need for more windfarms in Cumbria, as would subsidies for hydro-power.
When there is genuine benefit in windfarms being built, the county council wants adequate and agreed compensation for communities to be a condition of planning permission.
RES Ltd is about to develop a six turbine windfarm at Tallantire in west Cumbria.
It is offering £25,000 a year to be shared out between several parishes.
Mr Martin said: “Frankly, this is a pitiful amount which simply adds further to the sense of profound grievance which communities feel.”
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