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Wind farms poll shows nine in ten reject minister’s backing

Chris Huhne has failed in his hopes of uniting the region behind “beautiful” wind turbines, a Journal poll has revealed.

Last week the energy secretary courted controversy with his claims that wind turbines are “elegant” and “beautiful”. Mr Huhne said wind farms could complement scenic landscapes in the same way 17th century windmills are still considered a tourist attraction.

His words outraged some, amused others and even won over a little support, according to the results of The Journal’s online poll.

Hundreds of readers had their say on the Liberal Democrat’s comments, with the poll asking if turbines are as beautiful as he claims.

Some 79 people agreed with Mr Huhne that they are indeed elegant. But those backing him were somewhat outweighed by the 767 who voted to say they considered turbines to be a blight on the landscape.

John Thompson, chairman of the Wingates not Wind Farms action group in Northumberland, said the response had been “overwhelming”.

He said: “It reflects what we hear – that no one in terms of landscapes thinks that these turbines are a good thing.

“There is a counter-argument in favour of turbines around renewable energy, but I think even their supporters would struggle to say they also add something to the area.

“What people tend to forget is the scale of these things. We tend to try to compare them to so many Angels of the North to try to show just how big an impact these things will have.”

Asked his views on Mr Huhne’s suggestion that the turbines could benefit tourism, Mr Thompson said: “If you drive along the region’s main roads, you can see these turbines. I don’t think anyone would come to Northumberland, and drive off the main routes to see them. That’s not what people come here for.”

Those views put Mr Thompson up against the renewable energy industry. Robert Norris, head of communications at RenewablesUK, said concerns over wind turbines tend not to last once the turbines have been built. He said: “When we do surveys after turbines have gone up we find people are much less worried about this once they are built, and within a few years wonder what all the fuss was ever about.

“We take people who have noise concerns to visit wind turbines and when you get there you realise it is more like a gentle wind going by than anything else.”