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Cumbria anti-turbine group welcomes new windfarm rules

New government rules to empower communities to block windfarm developments have been cautiously welcomed by a Cumbrian anti-turbine group.

Plans for onshore windfarms around Cumbria have prompted a number of bitter campaigns to oppose the developments and such groups appear to have been given a helping hand by the government.

But the new guidelines have only been given a cautious welcome by Sarah Hemsley-Rose, group secretary of Friends of Rural Cumbria’s Environment (FORCE), which is leading the fight against a number of developments.

Miss Hemsley-Rose said: “The removal of the presumption in favour of windfarms on the planning process will be most welcome, but I would like to see it written down and look at the detail. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Miss Hemsley-Rose added that she hoped the new rules would be enforced in time to influence the outcome of windfarm disputes currently raging in Cumbria.

The government’s move also comes with a five-fold increase in incentives for communities that do accept windfarms.

The subsidies – worth around £100,000 a year from a medium-sized farm – could be used to reduce energy bills or pay for energy efficiencies in the host community or fund other local initiatives.

Planning guidance in England will be changed to give the highest priority to local opposition rather than national energy targets.

But Miss Hemsley-Rose said she doubted the incentives would influence any Cumbrian communities.

Annette Heslop is a director of Energy4All, a Barrow-based company that organises community-owned renewable energy schemes.

She said: “Windfarms can benefit communities financially, and people should be encouraged to look into the benefits. Our community schemes offer shares to the public and money is kept in the community.”