Coalition tensions over energy policy erupted today as a Conservative minister infuriated his Liberal Democrat boss for apparently announcing there would be no further expansion of onshore wind farms.
John Hayes was immediately slapped down by Energy Secretary Ed Davey for insisting that “enough is enough” and turbine developments should no longer be “imposed on communities”.
The Tory energy minister had been ordered not to deliver the remarks in a speech last night, amid warnings that they were not compatible with Government policy and would breach the ministerial code, but they were obtained instead for publication by newspapers.
A source close to Mr Davey said: “It’s not Government policy and nor will it be. The Tories are not in a single-party Government.
“We support renewables and we are not talking about a moratorium on onshore wind at the moment. We are going to continue to hold Conservative feet to the fire.”
Mr Hayes, whose comments will delight many Tory backbenchers opposed to onshore wind farms, was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a Tory deputy to Mr Davey in last month’s reshuffle.
Mr Davey was reportedly so concerned about his views on the issue that he acted to limit his responsibilities.
In comments apparently cut from a draft of Mr Hayes’s speech in Glasgow last night, he said policy should not be based on a “bourgeois left article of faith”.
“We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land,” he said.
“We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in.
“We need to understand communities’ genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective.”
He insisted only a minority of proposed wind turbines were needed to meet green targets set by the Government.
“If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what’s in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target. I’m saying enough is enough.”
The minister said new research on wind turbines would make a far wider assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and property prices.
“I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape,” he said.
“It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes.”
Mr Hayes said the impact of onshore wind farms on environments had been neglected and renewable energy needed “genuine community support”.
“The salience of aesthetics to discussions about renewables has often been neglected,” he added. “All that we do must be sensitive to local environments.”
It is understood that Mr Davey’s office saw a draft of the speech Mr Hayes was planning to deliver last night and he was told it was not acceptable and he should not give it. The content then appears to have ended up with the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said the speech Mr Hayes gave last night was “well received by the renewables industry”.
“Government policy for renewables, as stated in the Renewables Roadmap, sets out scenarios for renewable deployment, but does not set targets or caps for the deployment of individual technologies, including on onshore wind,” the spokeswoman said.
“Government is committed to supporting a balanced energy mix of renewables, new nuclear and gas in order to meet the UK’s energy needs.”
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