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Wind farm threat to South West coastline, Defra warns

Parts of the precious South West coastline need stronger protection against developments like wind farms according to a review by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It called for key areas of the British coastline to be designated as “protection zones” so planners would know where wind farms cannot be built.

Defra’s review of European Union regulations to protect birds and animals found that far from stifling economic growth, Britain was not applying the rules strongly enough.

The review comes as objections grow to plans for 250 turbines just eight miles east of the Westcountry’s Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site, which will be visible from the shore. The 450ft high turbines, which will be sited in a depth of 120ft of water, will provide enough energy to power up to 820,000 homes.

The Atlantic Array scheme, off the coast of north Devon, has also prompted a backlash from protesters worried about the environmental impact.

In Germany, wind farm operators are forced to do a thorough environmental assessment before building but Britain is far more relaxed, the review found.

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.”

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.

Last year the Chancellor George Osborne 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 generally working well, but 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.

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’.”