Cumbria’s council leader has warned that the county is at risk of being ruined by politicians pursuing green energy solutions.
Eddie Martin said he still hadn’t had a response from the government after he wrote to John Hayes, a Tory energy minister, last November, warning him the county was at “saturation point” with 400 new wind turbine applications in the pipeline.
Mr Martin yesterday said that local people felt helpless as they were “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 it appears to do so at the moment.”
He said district councils were struggling because it costs them up to £50,000 when they lose planning appeals against 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.”
Mr Martin said he had not had a reply from Mr Hayes, who previously promised to stop the spread of turbines across the country.
His comments came as Edward Davey, the Energy Secretary, defended the Government’s ambitions to see more turbines built, despite frequent opposition. He said 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.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy said Mr Hayes would reply to the letter. She said turbines “should always be appropriately sited, and the views of communities taken into account.”
“Every area should have an up-to-date local plan which sets out people’s views of how they wish their community to develop against which planning applications, and planning appeals, will be judged,” she said.
“We are currently consulting on ways of making sure local communities feel the benefit of hosting wind farms in their areas.”