David Cameron is under pressure from MPs to rewrite Government policy for controversial onshore wind farms.
Dozens of Conservatives are joining forces in a new group pressing for the Government to review subsidies for a technology they argue does “more harm than good”.
Westcountry MP Geoffrey Cox, one of those who attended the all-party parliamentary group’s first meeting, also wants a review of the minimum distance between turbines and housing against fears that they damage people’s health.
This week, farmer Nick Williams revealed he had been put on anti-depressants to help him deal with the effect of noise coming from the massive Fullabrook wind farm close to his home in North Devon.
The formation of the group, led by Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris, marks a significant shift in pressure on the Government over onshore wind.
The technology has provoked furious debate particularly when planted near some of the region’s beauty spots.
But Mr Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, said: “There is a real overlooked problem with onshore wind farms, particularly concern over how close turbines are to people’s dwellings.
“And there’s growing concern among members of Parliament, not just among the Conservative Party. There are proposals throughout Torridge and West Devon for turbines to be a few hundred metres from someone’s home.”
At Prime Minister’s Question Time this week, Yorkshire MP Nigel Adams urged Mr Cameron to act by focusing support on “cost-effective and reliable” technologies like biomass rather than “inefficient, costly, large-scale onshore wind farms”.
Fullabrook wind farm, near Ilfracombe – England’s biggest – has polarised opinion for years but will be fully operational within weeks.
A proposed development at Davidstow in North Cornwall has infuriated locals. Scores more turbines are planned across Devon and Cornwall.
Supporters say wind farms are essential to cut pollution. A major expansion of onshore turbines will help Britain meet green targets, which is expected to add more than £250 to the annual energy bill of homeowners by 2020.
But critics say wind turbines are unreliable, inefficient and prone to mechanical failure. Noise is increasingly a cause for concern.
Campaigner Michael Hulme’s fight to block construction of nine giant wind turbines near Crediton, Devon, ended in defeat at the hands of Appeal Court judges last summer, but he did secure stricter-than-usual noise pollution restrictions.
Mr Heaton-Harris said his main aim in mobilising MPs was “to try and get the Government to stop for a few weeks and fundamentally review its massive support (through subsidy) for a renewable technology that I believe does more harm than good”.
Official figures suggest up to 32,000 more wind turbines could be erected in the next 20 years, of which 6,000 would be onshore sites. At present, there are about 3,000 onshore wind turbines.