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Ministers prepare to halt onshore wind farm plans

The progress of controversial wind farms in the region’s countryside could grind to a halt as ministers prepare to veto major new developments.

Senior Government sources have indicated there will be no new onshore wind schemes approved – only those awaiting planning approval or to be built.

They told The Daily Telegraph ministers in the Department for Energy and Climate Change is prepared to block major developments of onshore wind turbines under the new Localism Act that came into force last month.

More than 100 turbines are in operation across the Westcountry, and the UK’s biggest onshore wind farm in North Devon will be up and running shortly. The massive Fullabrook wind farm between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe consists of 22 giant turbines. Many more are pending.

Britain already has around 350 wind farms across the country, with around 500 already under construction or awaiting planning permission

This means the number of wind farms built in the British countryside could still double from the current level.

The decision to reverse the Labour government’s enthusiasm for onshore wind farms has been on the cards since the coalition Government came to power.

The Government has already proposed cutting subsidies to onshore wind by 10 per cent to reflect a fall in building costs.

But some MPs want ministers to go further and reduce the £400 million per year in funding that goes to wind farms under the Renewable Obligation Certificate subsidy, which is paid for via household energy bills.

And more than 100 backbench Conservative MPs – including Ian Liddell-Grainger (West Somerset) and Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) – mounted a rebellion against turbines blighting rural areas earlier this year.

In the letter sent to Downing Street in February, they said they have become “more and more concerned” about government “support for onshore wind energy production”.

“In these financially straitened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines,” they said.

Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister, said this weekend Britain has “the wind we need” either being built, developed or in planning.

He said: “We inherited a policy from the last government which was unbalanced in favour of onshore wind.

“There have been some installations in insensitive or unsuitable locations – too close to houses, or in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”