Britain’s coastlines are in danger from offshore wind farms, a government report has warned.
In a review of European Union regulations to protect birds and animals, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that the UK is not imposing sufficiently strong protections around the coast.
In Germany, wind farm operators are forced to do a thorough environmental assessment before building but Britain is far more relaxed, the review found.
It called for key areas to be designated as protection zones so planners would know where wind farms cannot be built.
Almost 300 wind turbines will be built offshore in Britain this year, adding to a total of 3,500. By 2020, the industry wants 4,300 offshore turbines to help Britain meet its target to cut carbon emissions in half.
Campaigners claim they threaten wildlife, spoil sea views and could hinder tourism.
A plan to build 250 turbines in a 76 square mile area of the English Channel has prompted furious objections after it emerged they will be sited just eight miles east of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site, and will be visible from the shore.
Last year George Osborne, the Chancellor, ordered a review of the EU habitats regulations which protect Europe’s most precious natural areas, to ensure the rules were not placing “ridiculous costs” on business.
Defra found that the rules were working well, and, in the case of wind farms, they should be strengthened.
The review found that Natural England objected to development on the grounds of habitat protection in less than 0.5 per cent of the 26,500 consultations on development it receives a year.
Conservationists said the results proved that safeguarding wildlife was not holding back economic growth.
Andy Atkins, executive director at Friends of the Earth, said: “This review shows that protecting our precious wildlife sites is a key ingredient for a healthy and wealthy future, despite George Osborne’s misleading spin about environmental protection being bad for business.
“And with the Government preparing to unleash a new round of unsustainable developments on the countryside, such as new roads and airports, strong protection for our natural assets and wildlife is more important than ever.”
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “No evidence was found to back up the suggestion made by the Chancellor in his Autumn Budget Statement that the regulations are ‘a ridiculous cost on British business’.”
The largest wind farm in the world, with more than 100 turbines, was opened in February off the coast of Cumbria.
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