Around half of all new applications to build onshore wind farms in Wales and England are being turned down, according to Freedom of Information data published today.
New data obtained by commercial law firm McGrigors, which represents companies in the energy sector among others, claims the percentage of new applications being rejected has shot up over recent years.
Planning permission rejections were at less than a third (29%) in 2005, rising to 33% in 2009 and have now reached 48% in 2010, according to the firm.
The freedom of information figures showed 32 applications out of a total 66 for onshore wind farms were turned down in the last year across Wales and England.
The number of applications being made by energy companies in 2010 was revealed to be the lowest since 2005, the figures show.
The law firm warned town halls across Wales were only “looking after local interests” and warned the numbers could spell disaster for ambitious government aims for renewable energy to meet a third of electricity demand by 2020 – the majority of which will come from wind power.
The firm has attacked “nimbyism” and said people “seldom look sympathetically” on wind turbines near their properties.
“The new focus on the localism agenda will make it even harder to get the go-ahead for new wind farms,” McGrigors partner Jacqueline Harris said.
The firm’s claims come as thousands of protesters have repeatedly gathered outside the Senedd over the past month to voice their anger at plans for 50m-tall pylons across Mid Wales.
In May, 35 coachloads of people from across Wales descended on the home of the Welsh Government armed with three petitions signed by 14,000 people.
Decisions on major developments are currently made by the UK Government but First Minister Carwyn Jones has made it clear that he wants the Welsh Government to make decisions about projects of more than 50 megawatts.
Powys councillor David Jones, who last month saw his motion passed urging the Welsh Government to request a moratorium on all wind farm applications, said people in Mid Wales felt far more applications were being recommended for approval than rejected.
He said: “I think it is a fundamental problem that here in Wales that there is a presumption from politicians that wind farms should be approved. I believe that should be reviewed for reasons of ecology, conservation and the cumulative effect wind farms have on the environment.”
Much of the UK government’s focus on wind power has been on offshore wind farms, which are seen as less controversial.
The wind industry recently agreed a “protocol” which will see communities paid a minimum of £1,000-a-year per megawatt of wind power installed as part of efforts to make onshore wind more palatable.
The average onshore wind turbine is around 2.3 megawatts.
The Welsh Government last week sought to reassure the renewable energy industry about its commitment to wind farm development – after a statement by the First Minister two weeks ago appeared to suggest it was setting a limit of 1.1GW.
Environment Minister John Griffiths wrote to energy companies and planning authorities in a bid to clear up any confusion over the statement.
Michelle Thomas, head of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Group at Eversheds, said: “It is helpful for the Welsh Government to attempt to clarify the situation. However the message is still restrictive in terms of on-shore wind development.”
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