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Eric Pickles says communities will be given greater say on wind farms

Local communities will be able to voice their opposition to wind farms before planning applications are submitted, ministers have announced.

Under new regulations, onshore wind turbine developers will be forced to consult the public before putting in planning applications.

However, the announcement stopped short of previous suggestions that the Conservatives want to give communities the power to veto wind farms.

Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, said: “We are making sure local people have a crystal clear voice in airing their opinions on wind turbines very early on. From day one communities should be centre stage in crafting plans that affect their lives instead of having them forced upon them.

“Ensuring communities have a greater say at an early stage allows developers to consider much earlier whether to pursue a proposal and what changes they should consider before putting forward formal plans.

“Our changes allow people’s views and other impacts to be taken into consideration much earlier. The new rules will apply to all wind farms with more than two turbines, or with turbines that are more than 15 metres tall. Similar rules already apply to bigger wind farms.”

The move comes amid increasing concern about the cost of wind turbines and the impact of government subsidies on energy bills.

David Cameron has promised to “roll back” environmental levies on energy bills, which add £112 to the typical household bill. Money raised by the levies is used to refund wind farms and other renewable energy schemes.

Mr Cameron has previously said that there is “limited potential for onshore wind”, and the government is focusing instead on meeting Britain’s energy needs with nuclear power and shale gas exploration.

The Conservative’s opposition to onshore wind farms has prompted repeated clashes with the Liberal Democrats.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy Secretary last year clashed with former energy minister John Hayes after the Conservative warned that “enough is enough”over wind farms.

Mr Hayes was rebuked by Mr Davey and the Prime Minister was forced to distance himself from the comments, telling the Commons that there had been no change in Government policy.