Energy secretary Chris Huhne has told the North East to learn to love “beautiful” wind turbines and called for hundreds more to be given the go ahead.
In comments which will divide opinion Mr Huhne set out his full support for onshore wind turbines during a visit to Newcastle.
To an audience of green energy firms and fellow Liberal Democrats he said opponents of wind turbines had to be challenged when claiming wind farms ruin landscapes such as Northumberland’s.
In a strong defence of the sometimes controversial structures, Mr Huhne insisted that many people shared his opinion that they are “elegant” and “beautiful”.
Speaking at Newcastle’s Centre for Life, he said: “I happen to think we should have more onshore wind turbines. I have been booed for saying this, but I think they are beautiful, and those of us who think they are a good thing need to speak up more and say that.
“After all, no one would now look at windmills and say they do not add something to the view.
“But they are the same technology, they were once new but they are very well liked, there is one in my constituency that is a big tourist attraction, technology from the 17th Century which is now very popular with visitors.
“We are talking about exactly the same thing. When I hear people say wind turbines are bad for scenic areas I just don’t agree, I think they are elegant and beautiful and a lot more people should be saying that.
“Every time we put a wind turbine up, and a lot more of them need to go up in my opinion, we need to be saying to people these are not horrendous, we think they look nice and they have to accept that.”
He will be backed by some in the region. The Journal has previously revealed that Blyth-based energy research group Narec employed an artist in residence tasked with looking at ways of turning working turbines into art.
But last night those claims also prompted some strong rebuttals from across Northumberland.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Berwick’s Conservative spokeswoman, is lending her support to those battling plans to build 16 turbines at Detchant, north of Belford.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “The industrial turbines proposed for construction on this unspoilt rural landscape are giant metal pieces of a factory.
“They bear no relation to house-sized windmills of the 17th Century.
“Nor are they as efficient. If the Secretary of State is so keen to see more onshore wind turbine built on British soil perhaps he can encourage the investors looking to take advantage of Government subsidies to build them in his constituency.”
Mr Huhne’s views also upset campaigners fighting plans for nine 125 metre high turbines on Middles Hill near Elsdon, Northumberland.
Professor Stephen Foti, chairman of an action group set up to oppose the development, said the secretary was misguided.
“They want to build these turbines in an area of absolute beauty, it is unbelievable that some one could think these will improve the view here.
“We are talking here about turbines more than six times the height of the Angel of the North. if they were really tackling CO2 emissions maybe we could accept them but when you take into account construction and other factors they really are not helping. It is madness, these are gargantuan turbines, they will turn a beautiful part of the countryside into an industrial power station.”