Britain’s most beautiful landscapes are at risk of being “disfigured and scarred” by up to 400 new wind turbines in the county of the Lake District, the head of Cumbria council has warned.
Eddie Martin, the local Conservative leader, said the region is at risk of being ruined by politicians “determined to steal Cumbria’s soul in the name of green energy”.
In a letter to John Hayes, a Tory energy minster, he called on the Government to drop its “fixation” with turbines as the “jewel in the crown of Britain’s landscapes” has reached saturation point.
He also described the Coalition’s commitment to localism as a “cruel joke”, as local communities feel powerless to stop wind farms being built in their areas.
Anti-wind campaigners claim Cumbria hosts as many wind turbines as all the other counties of England combined.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Martin said there is a “very very strong feeling in Cumbria that we are taking more than our fair share” of wind farms.
Mr Martin said local people feel helpless as they are “gradually encircled with pillars of steel” on countryside right next to the protected Lake District national parks.
“You can’t have pick and mix localism,” he said. “Either we give communities the power to make a decision or we do not but we can’t play at it. If localism is to mean anything, it must mean more than they appear to do so at the moment.”
He said district councils in his area are struggling because it costs them up to £50,000 when they lose planning appeals against unwanted turbines.
“There’s something wrong in the state of Cumbria and elsewhere, I think,” he said. “It’s a massive growing movement – the imposition of wind farms on a unwilling community that feels disenfranchised because it cannot effectively reject them.
“I know there are many other communities in England that feel the same way we do.”
Mr Martin said he had not had a reply from Mr Hayes, who has previously promised to stop the spread of wind farms across the countryside – before being slapped down by more senior ministers.
His comments came as Edward Davey, the Energy Secretary, defended the Government’s ambitions to see more wind turbines built, despite frequent local opposition.
He told LBC Radio that people “often” support wind farms as they can bring “community benefits” when developers agree to spend money on the local area. This can help “turn the tide of local opinion” in favour of wind energy, he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy said Mr Hayes would reply to the letter.
She added that wind turbines “should always be appropriately sited, and the views of local communities taken into account”.
“Specific onshore wind planning applications are a matter for the relevant planning authority. Every area should have an up-to-date local plan which sets out local people’s views of how they wish their community to develop against which planning applications, and planning appeals, will be judged. We are currently consulting on ways of making sure local communities feel the benefit of hosting wind farms in their areas.”
It comes as a new report argues that Britain and the US are spending too much money on subsidising wind power.
A study by the Adam Smith Institute and America’s Reason Foundation found heavy investment in wind power is “misguided”.
“Wind energy will never be suited as the lone or primary source of grid electricity due to its variable nature and will not deliver the environmental benefits expected,” the report said.
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