Residents will have to be consulted over applications for wind farms in their area, under new laws set to come into force next month.
Currently only developers of a handful of the biggest wind farms have to discuss the implications of their projects with local people.
But new rules from the department of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will mean even small developments of two or more turbines which are at least 50ft high will have to go through a similar process.
Officials said smaller developments can have a major impact on local areas and be widely opposed – but often the first time residents are aware of them is when an application is received by the council.
Under the new system, a consultation will have to be publicised before an application is made – either by email or letter or in a public meeting.
It will not guarantee more applications are rejected but will mean local residents get a greater say over the size and location from the start, when they have more opportunity to influence the process.
Mr Pickles, the communities 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.’
There are already 4,000 onshore wind turbines in Britain and it is estimated 10,000 will be needed by the end of the decade to meet targets to cut carbon emissions.
But applications by developers, who stand to rake in tens of thousands of pounds in subsidies have angered local communities who think they blight the landscape and hit house prices.
Council planners already reject around half the applications they receive, but many are then approved on appeal by planning inspectors to champion green energy.
Mr Pickles announced this year that the drive to build wind farms would no longer automatically trump protecting the landscape.
In a major boost for anti-wind farm campaigners, their concerns about the visual and environmental impact must be taken into account, and that for six months his Whitehall department would centrally review some of the appeals to make sure residents get a say.
Wind farms are a running sore between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. Over a hundred Conservative backbenchers, as well as some cabinet ministers, are opposed to onshore wind farms, which they say ruin the countryside and do not help mitigate climate change.
Tory energy minister Michael Fallon said: ‘These new rules will help ensure that in future people have a say earlier on in the process over where onshore turbines are sited. Wind is an important part of the UK’s energy mix, and both Government and industry agree that these proposals will ensure that new turbines are appropriately sited.’
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