Residents will win new powers to block the eyesore of onshore windfarms in an overhaul of planning laws, David Cameron announced last night.
The Prime Minister said the Government would act to ensure that only those windfarms which win local approval are given the go-ahead.
He hinted that the Coalition is preparing to beef up its National Planning Policy Strategy – due to be published next month – in order to let those living nearby have power of veto over the location of the turbines, which are widely regarded as unsightly.
Mr Cameron insisted that some onshore wind energy will form part of the mix of energy supply in future but, he added, ‘if, and only if, local people have a proper say in planning decisions’.
The Prime Minister made the declaration in a letter to 101 Tory MPs who called for the Government to ditch generous subsidies to build windfarms.
His intervention is a hint that the Government is looking favourably at a series of amendments to the planning strategy that were tabled by Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris.
He wrote to Downing Street calling for a cut in the subsidy for windfarms and a rethink on planning laws.
Mr Cameron responded: ‘Planning works best when communities themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that make a difference in their lives.
That must include local communities having their full say on onshore wind farm planning decisions.
Our planning reforms will put local communities in the driving seat by giving new powers to neighbourhoods to write their own plans.
‘Top-down regional targets will not trump local concerns and aspirations of local residents when local plans are made.’
The Prime Minister also said local communities would collectively win financial benefits from new wind turbines. At present only landowners see a profit.
‘We are committed to ensuring local communities capture the full economic benefit from hosting renewable energy projects, including retention of all the business rates they pay,’ he added.
At least 4,500 more turbines are expected to be constructed as the Government attempts to meet legally binding targets for cutting carbon emissions.
Critics say wind farms are inefficient because the wind cannot be guaranteed to blow when there is the greatest need for energy.
Equally, several wind farm operators were paid to actually shut down last year when it was too windy – because they produced more energy than the National Grid could handle.
The Prime Minister did not back down entirely. He refused to budge on the MPs’ concern that the Government should slash the subsidy for windfarms by more than the 10 per cent already announced.
The subsidy is blamed for driving up energy bills.
He said: ‘Onshore wind plays a role in a balanced UK electricity mix, alongside gas, nuclear, cleaner coal and other forms of renewable energy.
‘A portfolio of different supplies enhances energy security and prevents the UK from becoming over-reliant on gas imports.’
He also said the Government should promote green jobs.
Mr Heaton-Harris said he would lead a delegation to Downing Street to discuss the issue further.
He told the Daily Mail: ‘I’m hopeful given what he says about planning and how that is being addressed. This is the opening of a conversation.’
Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, said: ‘I’m quite encouraged by this. I’ve got one of these windfarms in my constituency.
‘Everyone objected locally but it was imposed by a government official anyway.
‘Apart from the farmer whose land it is on, no one sees any benefit from it at all. Everyone else suffers because their houses fall in value.’
[also published online as “Cameron’s ‘Nimby’ charter: Public to get new rights to block ‘eyesore’ windfarm plans”]
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