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Ed Davey: residents deserve ‘windfalls’ for putting up with wind farms

People who live up to six miles from a wind farm deserve to get “rewards” for putting up with them, the Energy Secretary will say today.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat minister, is hoping to encourage developers to offer benefits such as new playgrounds, better village halls or church repairs.

Critics claim the plans are simply “bribes” to persuade local councils to grant planning permission for unpopular turbines.

They point out wind farms can be eyesores for people living far outside the immediate area to get “community benefits”. Many residents may not be persuaded that these rewards compensate for the noise and hassle of living near a turbine.

However, Mr Davey insists the plans are not about paying off towns and villages.

“Far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall,” he will say. “We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.

“This new call for evidence will look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.”

The proposals are looking at replicating the Scottish system, which publishes a list of all benefits received by communities near each wind farm.

This helps towns and villages compare what other areas have got and negotiate a better deal with developers.

In Scotland, communities living within six miles of a wind farm got £28,000 in grants to help improve local facilities.

However, Tom Leveridge of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the plans risk “riding roughshod over legitimate community concerns”.

“We must make sure that this does not promote simplistic notions of sharing benefits that amount to little more then paying off communities to secure planning permission,” he said.

“This would fundamentally undermine a core principle of the planning system – that planning permission should not be bought or sold – and put the countryside at greater risk from poorly sited wind developments.”

Mr Davey’s plans are aimed at encouraging more onshore farms despite George Osborne’s efforts to stop the march of heavily-subsidised wind turbines across the countryside.

The Energy Secretary won a bruising battle with the Chancellor to make sure subsidies for onshore farms are only cut by 10 per cent, rather than a quarter, next year

But he also agreed to launch a consultation into whether the level of subsidy for wind farms needs to come down further.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change will today call for evidence on how much it costs to generate electricity from onshore wind.

If the review “finds a significant change in generation costs”, Mr Davey will consider slashing subsidies further.