George Osborne and David Cameron today put the brakes on wind farm subsidies blamed for filling the British countryside with giant turbines.
The Chancellor ordered part of the money to be redirected from onshore to offshore wind farms, which will speed up the forests of turbines along the East and South coasts instead.
The move was welcomed by rural campaigners and Tory MPs opposed to turbines being erected near homes and beautyspots, who claim the green benefits from wind power have been overstated. Conservatives have been under pressure from Ukip whose leader Nigel Farage has said he would scrap turbine subsidies.
It was confirmed by Liberal Democrat deputy Danny Alexander, who denied that the Coalition had bowed to Tory protests and insisted that land-based windmills will continue to play “a big role”.
However, sources close to the Chancellor said that “protecting our natural environment” was a key part of the decision, along with directing investment where it was most needed.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, welcomed the move. “Any slow-down in the rate of growth of on-shore wind is good news,” he said. “People are fed up with having such things forced on them.”
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, whose Daventry constituency contains a burgeoning wind farm, said it was too late for many residents. “There are people who cannot sell homes that were worth £500,000 a year ago,” he said.
The Coalition has suffered strains over green power subsidies, which are strongly championed by the Liberal Democrats. Tory Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and No 10 fixer John Hayes are both sceptics about wind farms, which have sprung up on 201 sites in the UK.
Mr Alexander said state aid for both onshore wind and solar power were being reduced “slightly”. It will be achieved by lowering the artificial price paid to producers.
“We have looked in detail at how much it costs to do offshore windfarms and onshore windfarms and big solar schemes and we are reducing slightly the subsidy we are providing to onshore wind and to these big solar schemes,” he told BBC radio.
Asked if it was a political fix, he said: “No, it’s not. Onshore wind is going to continue to play a big role.”
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