Wind turbines and wind farms may be regarded by many people as a “complete scam”, according to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
New rules that would transfer power to local people to decide whether individual applications went ahead, instead of the decision being left to planning officers, were to be welcomed, he said.
The new directive is likely to scupper scores of plans backlogged at Cornwall Council and Devon County Council, and halt the controversial proliferation of turbines springing up across the countryside.
Mr Paterson, speaking at the Royal Cornwall Show, said: “Turbines are regarded as a complete scam, but as of today we have given power to local communities to decide. The criteria is now that environment and landscape will have to be taken into consideration as well as the national energy requirement.”
Where a local community decided it was happy with an application there would be sufficient funding. The new rules are part of a package that would increase significantly grants to communities agreeing to host wind projects within their boundaries.
But, Mr Paterson insisted, the new rules applied for all those applications already in process of being considered.
He added: “I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects, both from what I hear nationally and from my own constituency in Shropshire. There are places where these projects are well prepared, the community wants it and it will be worthwhile. But in inland areas they are very often deeply unpopular.”
The new measures have been welcomed by conservation groups who have been combating plans for both individual turbines and wind farms. Caroline Hall, chairman of the East Moor Protection Group on Bodmin Moor, currently objecting to planning applications for turbines, said: “Changing the rules makes good sense as it’s time the views of local people were considered by planning authorities. Our countryside can be absolutely ruined by turbines sprouting up all over the place, often not directly attached to a farming business.”
Asked about rumours there might be a change through a statutory instrument to the controversial Hunting Act, allowing more than two hounds to pursue a fox towards guns, Mr Paterson said: “It’s within my powers to make changes within the Hunting Act and we are receiving significant ideas from people which we can analyse.” He would not comment further.