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Minister: let locals block wind farms

Wind farms should not be built against the wishes of local communities in future, according to the energy minister.

Michael Fallon will shortly publish planning protections and proposals for a scheme of community “payments” for residents who agree to allow wind turbines near their homes.

The recently appointed energy and business minister told the The Daily Telegraph that new schemes would have to gain “community consent”, effectively handing the power of veto to communities in opposition to wind farms in their area.

He also warned that he would not tolerate some areas being “swamped” by applications for wind farms. Several councils have been frustrated in their attempts to block such developments and have faced multi-million-pound legal bills.

The issue has become crucial in many rural Conservative areas and is expected to have an impact on next week’s local elections in which David Cameron is expected to lose hundreds of council seats.

Mr Fallon admitted that action was needed to protect rural shires facing the prospect of thousands of new turbines.

“It’s about a better balance,” he said. “We are not against renewable energy, but it has to have community consent.

“What we need for onshore wind is to ensure that communities who [have] onshore wind benefit properly, benefit more fully than they do at the moment. That there is more certainty but that, equally, areas don’t feel they are being swamped by multiple applications.”

He added: “We have got a package of proposals to deal with all of that.”

It is understood that the “relief for the shires” package, to be unveiled next month, will include new planning protections and a community benefit scheme.

Areas agreeing to wind farms will benefit from lower energy bills, new primary schools or other amenities funded by developers. Mr Fallon recently replaced John Hayes, an outspoken Tory critic of wind farms who pledged to introduce a moratorium on new developments.

Mr Hayes was moved to another role in government after clashing with Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, who believed he was harming green industry. Mr Fallon indicated that he is taking a different approach to his predecessor.

“Energy policy shouldn’t be ideological,” he said. “My job here is to make sure we have enough energy, we don’t have to worry about security of supply, we have new generation and that customers get the best possible deal. Delivery, not ideology.”

The Conservative minister also denied that there was any difference of opinion with the Liberal Democrats over nuclear energy policy. He said that Mr Davey was leading negotiations on behalf of the Government over a new generation of foreign-funded nuclear power stations.

Mr Fallon was recently promoted by the Prime Minister to a key ministerial position, straddling both the business and energy departments, which are headed by Liberal Democrats.