The countryside could be studded with wind farms if planning reforms go ahead, it was claimed last night.
The shake-up will make it harder for councils to turn down wind turbine projects, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
It said construction of the 40-foot turbines would damage the character of our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has also warned the new regime could see wind farms erected close to rare bird colonies.
The reforms propose a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ and would slash the national planning code from more than 1,000 pages to 50.
Ministers argue this will cut red tape, provide more housing and boost the economy. They insist local people will still have the power to turn down developments.
Critics say the reforms will allow a development free-for-all, with wind farms being allowed in unsuitable locations.
In particular, it will be hard for councils to turn down medium-sized developments of up to 25 turbines.
Tom Leveridge, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘The planning system should promote renewable energy while protecting sensitive landscapes.
‘The current reforms fail to protect the setting of our finest landscapes and could see the development of major wind farms adjacent to national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
‘Efforts by local communities to develop their own appropriately sited small-scale energy initiatives will be undermined as councils and communities come under increasing pressure to accept unwanted and unsuitable applications. The transparency and openness of goodwill payments also needs to be recognised and improved so that developers cannot simply buy their way through the planning system.’
The threat of wind farms is contained in the Government’s development framework, which says: ‘Planning should fully support the transition to a low-carbon economy in a changing climate. To achieve this objective, the planning system should secure … radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.’
It also says there should be ‘active support’ for ‘the delivery of renewable and low-carbon energy infrastructure’ – such as wind farms.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said it supported wind farms but it was worried making it easier for them to be erected will see their spread to sensitive areas.
It called for sites to be away from major migration routes and the important feeding, breeding and roosting areas of at-risk birds.
A spokesman said: ‘The RSPB supports wind power as a vital part of the renewable energy mix. Climate change is the biggest threat our wildlife faces and we must do all we can to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel.
‘However, wind turbines must be sited responsibly so that they do not have an adverse impact on nearby wildlife.’
A spokesman for the National Trust said: ‘We are big fans of renewable energy sources, but they need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The impact on communities and landscape, among many others, has to be taken into account.
‘There’s a risk the Government’s planning changes mean that community concerns or wider impacts won’t be properly considered.’
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said onshore wind was an important part of national energy security and low-carbon goals.
But he added: ‘The presumption in favour of sustainable development is not a green light for wind turbines everywhere.’
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