David Cameron must set out how many wind farms he wants Britain to have – and where they should be, countryside campaigners warned last night.
They spoke out after the Prime Minister said he “passionately” believed the rapid growth of renewable energy was vital for the nation’s future.
The debate over onshore wind farms has become hugely contentious, with over 100 Tory MPs – many from the West – attacking them earlier this year. And the Western Daily Press reported on Wednesday how campaigners fighting plans for nine huge wind farms on the Somerset Levels were ‘ecstatic’ when councillors threw out the schemes, Stroud-based Ecotricity had applied to build four turbines at West Huntspill, and EDF Energy five at East Huntspill, the villages close to the M5 near Bridgwater.
The PM had been expected to make his first keynote speech on the environment – billed as a major policy intervention – at a meeting in London. But it was later downgraded to just a few minutes of introductory remarks at the clean energy summit attended by ministers from 23 countries, which disappointed all sides of the argument.
As the Daily Press revealed yesterday, Mr Cameron did welcome announcements by six companies on major biomass and wind projects in the UK, representing hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. They include a £300 million biomass scheme by Helius Energy for a 100MW dedicated biomass project at Avonmouth, creating 450 full-time jobs during construction, and 40 new long-term operations posts.
The PM said we urgently needed more diverse, cleaner mix of energy sources, to give security without causing irreparable damage to the planet. “We have been prepared to make the investments in infrastructure needed to make wind, solar and bio-energy a viable option for the first time.”
However, he focused more on offshore wind, which is less controversial, rather than the more politically risky turbines.
The Council for the Protection of Rural England said spending cuts meant council planning departments were struggling to cope with a surge in the number of onshore wind projects.
A spokesman told the Daily Press: “The Government needs to stop sitting on the fence and stand up for local people, because planning departments are unable to cope.
“They should say how much of the renewable energy targets they think should be provided by onshore wind and where they are expect them to go and give some support to local people and local authorities who feel under siege at the moment.”
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