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Payouts for neighbours of wind farms ‘is just bribery’

Proposed government “benefits” to woo homeowners opposed to wind turbines near their homes has been dismissed as “pure bribery” by countryside campaigners.

Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey wants communities near onshore wind farms to be offered cheaper electricity or money in return for development.

Ministers are anxious to square the circle between improving energy supplies from renewable technology with fierce opposition to turbines in rural areas.

Mr Davey said: “Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable.

“We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.”

He added: “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.”

Mr Davey said the Government would carry out a consultation to gather evidence on how communities might best benefit from having turbines nearby. The Government will also seek the latest information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies for new farms from April 2014, which will be cut by 10%, are correct.

Danny Mageean, co-founder of Cornwall Protects and chairman of the Stop Davidstow Wind Farm Alliance, which has opposed plans for 20 turbines standing at 125 metres in North Cornwall, said any offer would be “totally irrelevant”.

He said: “Offering people money to have them is pure bribery. The Government needs to take seriously the impact on residential amenities. There are noise issues. The distance from properties is an issue.

“Turbines are a real blight on communities and they are doing nothing to tackle climate change – they do not reduce CO2. The only thing they are good for is allowing Government to tick boxes.”

The Conservatives are less enthusiastic about turbines than their junior coalition partners, reflected in 100 MPs writing to David Cameron urging him to slash wind subsidies.

Conservative Energy Minister John Hayes said: “Appropriately sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we’re to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we’ve got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the move was recognition that the Government could not “ride roughshod” over residents’ concerns about turbines.

However Tom Leveridge, CPRE’s senior energy campaigner, went on: “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.

“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.”

He called for a more sensitive approach to reducing the impact of wind turbines.