Wind farms have been “peppered” across Britain without enough consideration for the countryside and people’s homes, a senior Conservative energy minister admitted last night as he warned “enough is enough”.
John Hayes said that we can “no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities” and added that it “seems extraordinary” they have allowed to spread so much throughout the country.
The energy minister said he had ordered a new analysis of the case for onshore wind power which would form the basis of future government policy, rather than “a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective”. The comments sparked speculation that Conservative ministers are planning to drop their support for wind farms – a move which would trigger a major Coalition rift.
Mr Hayes, who was appointed energy minister in last month’s reshuffle, is understood to believe that there should be a moratorium on new onshore wind farms. Almost 4,000 turbines are set to be built across Britain in the coming years.
Several senior Tories, including Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, also believe the wind farm “blight” has not been properly considered before allowing development. Mr Paterson will formally respond to a government review on the community benefit of wind farms shortly and is expected to warn about their impact on rural areas.
Last night, Mr Hayes said: “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.
“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.”
The energy minister indicated that only a minority of the thousands of wind turbines currently put forward for planning permission are likely to be given the go-ahead. He said that this would be enough to fulfil 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,” Mr Hayes said. “I’m saying enough is enough.”
The minister has commissioned research on wind turbines which will take a far more wide-reaching assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and house 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” as he warned that renewable energy must be in the “right places” with “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.”
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP and green campaigner, said last night that the “Tory retreat on climate change is senseless”. It is not clear whether Mr Hayes’s repositioning on wind farms was sanctioned by Downing Street or the Treasury. George Osborne, the Chancellor, is understood to be increasingly sceptical about green energy sources.
The remarks are likely to anger Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, has already tried to strip Mr Hayes of part of his brief in the department.
Earlier this year, more than 100 Conservative MPs urged David Cameron to block the further expansion of onshore wind power. Mr Hayes’s intervention comes as the Government prepares to publish its new plans for Britain’s future energy needs.