Wind farms should not be built less than 1.4miles from people’s homes, the planning minister has suggested.
Nick Boles said in the House of Commons that wind turbines should not have an “unacceptable impact” on local communities, in the latest attempt by Tory ministers to push back against the spread of on-shore wind farms across the country.
There is currently no national standard for the distance between turbines and houses. But Mr Boles told MPs that he thought a minimum distance “might be appropriate” in some areas.
Mr Boles said that as an MP he had backed plans by Lincolnshire County Council – which is not a planning authority – to bring in a minimum distance of two kilometres (1.4 miles) from “a residential property”.
However, if the ban was adopted widely by other councils widely, wind farms could be effectively banned from large parts of the south east of England, where population density is high.
The comments some could also be used by other home owners to stop wind farms being sited near to their properties.
They also signal a hardening in views against onshore wind farms by ministers at the Communities department, which can veto developments.
Tory MP Stephen Phillips had raised concerns in the House of Commons over inappropriate onshore wind development in his constituency and across Lincolnshire and urged Mr Boles to reconsider the policy.
Mr Phillips said: “It is fair to say that the localism agenda which the Government has pursued has done much to involve local people in the planning process, but there’s considerable support in Lincolnshire and across the country for these minimum separation distances.
“They do a lot to encourage public support for onshore wind and allay people’s concerns and I hope that his department will look seriously at this issue and come back to this House so he can tell us what he’s going to do.”
Mr Boles, MP for Grantham and Stamford, acknowledged such a policy “might be appropriate” for such a county but ignoring local variations would not be right.
He said: “He and I represent neighbouring constituencies and, like him, I believe that a minimum separation distance might be appropriate in our flat Fenland landscape.
“That’s why before my appointment as planning minister I supported Lincolnshire County Council’s wind energy position statement and urged my planning authority to reflect it in their local plan.
“But not all of England is like Lincolnshire, sadly for the rest of England. A top-down national policy that ignores local variations in topography and local opinion would be wrong.”
Mr Boles’ comments were echoed by the secretary of state Eric Pickles, who emphasised the importance of local authorities in deciding on planning applications.
He said: “We look to local planning authorities to determine where a wind farm or a single turbine might go, and in particular where they might not.”
Mr Pickles’ comments are significant as applications for controversial wind farms can ultimately be ruled by Mr Pickles or one of his deputies at the department.
Friends of Mr Boles suggested he was supportive of the controversial efforts by Energy minister John Hayes to halt the march of on shore wind farms across parts of Britain.
One friend of Mr Boles said: “He is willing to take the heat to get more houses built but he is not going to die in the ditch for ineffective and unpopular wind farms.”
Mr Boles is understood to be looking to build an “informal alliance” with energy minister John Hayes, whose constituency is to the south of Mr Boles’, without having to get agreement from Liberal Democrat Climate Change secretary Ed Davey.
Earlier this year, The Daily Telegraph disclosed how energy company RWE NPower was using the Coalition’s new planning laws to challenge a ban by Milton Keynes council on building turbines next to houses.
RWE said that a policy to stop wind farms from being built less than a mile from homes was unlawful because the National Planning Policy Framework encouraged green energy generation where possible.
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