Wind campaigners have urged the Government to finalise and publish a report into the impact giant turbines have on the rural economy.
Groups seeking to preserve Northumberland’s unique visual appeal have warned of a possible detrimental impact on visitor numbers, and say it is vital the Government sets out its evidence.
Their calls come as it emerges two senior Government ministers are locked in a dispute over the key report. Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey is said to have raised concerns with Conservative Environment Secretary Owen Paterson over Defra’s plans to assess the economic impact of wind farms. Speculation is mounting that Mr Davey has attempted to delay publication of the report carried out by the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs over fears it could expose shortcomings in his department’s renewable energy strategy.
It is claimed that figures in the energy department are concerned that the report, which has not been completed, could include negative conclusions about how renewable energy affects the rural economy.
At its strongest, it is suggested the report “could provide official confirmation that the controversial turbines can harm rural areas”.
Last night the Government was urged to publish the findings as soon as possible to help provide a strong evidence base for those objecting to wind turbines in areas such as Northumberland.
Bill Short, from the Northumberland and Newcastle Society’s environmental committee, said that with developers able to bring in their own research at the planning decision stage, it was vital residents had whatever support was available.
He said: “There is very little out there that backs up what we know anecdotally, that these turbines put people off. We have heard of some studies that say anywhere up to 30% of people are put off visiting because of turbines.
“If you think how important tourism is to Northumberland, what business can afford to lose 30% of potential customers?
“We and others have been voicing our concern in this area for some time now. There was a Defra study some years back now that praised the unspoilt beauty of Northumberland, we need to see what they will do now to preserve that.”
Also calling for a timely publication of the report was Northumberland County Council leader Grant Davey. The Labour councillor said: “‘The coalition is completely divided about the potential of onshore wind farms and it’s places like Northumberland which are at the forefront of onshore wind developments which are impacted the most.
“This report should be published and it’s a shame that coalition tensions are stopping further evidence which would be very helpful in our planning process.”
Last night a Government spokesman said: “We need to ensure that energy is generated in a way that is sustainable and understand the effects that different technologies have on the environment and on communities across the country.
“DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) and Defra are working together on this report, which is not yet complete, to ensure that it meets the usual standards and quality assurances that you would expect from any Government publication. A diverse energy mix is the best way to meet our energy security requirements, our climate change commitments and keep energy bills affordable.”
No deadline or publication date was given.
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