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Number of planned onshore wind farms rises by two thirds

The number of onshore wind farms granted planning permission has risen by two thirds in the past three years, official figures have revealed.

David Cameron last year pledged to halt the growing numbers of wind farms amid a growing backlash in rural areas.

However, figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveal that last year a total of 141 onshore wind farms were granted planning permission, compared to 83 in 2010.

The figures also show a significant rise in the number of solar farms given approval by councils, up from nine in 2010 to 141 last year.

The trend reflects what analysts believe to be the rush to take advantage of government-backed green levies which power companies claim in exchange for developing renewable energy projects.

From March 2017, subsidies for wind farms will be cut after ministers announced that the cost of building them has proved “lower than expected”.

Experts said there is a “stampede” by wind farm developers to submit their planning applications before the current regime comes to an end.

Campaigners opposed to wind farms have also accused the government of going back on plans to give communities the power to veto wind farms.

Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity which is critical of the cost of wind farms, said: “There is a stampede to get under the wire, the current system of subsidies is very, very generous. There are a lot of planning applications in the system.

“In spite of all the noise about a change of emphasis by the government last year, the actual instructions sent to local authorities and the planning inspectorate were feeble. The views and interests of local people are not being reflected in planning decisions.”

However Renewable UK, which represents turbine builders, said: “People favour wind energy and onshore developers are taking their responsibilities seriously in terms of consulting with the local community, answering concerns and questions, carrying out environmental assessments. We would welcome this.”

In August Mr Cameron said that there was “limited potential for onshore wind” in the UK. He said: “There’s a limited potential for onshore wind,” Mr Cameron said. “Frankly, we’ve got some in the UK – I don’t think we’re going to have a huge amount more.

“We’ve just changed the rules, we’ve cut the subsidies and we’ve said that any schemes that go ahead have to give more benefit to local communities. So I wouldn’t expect to see a lot more wind power onshore in the UK.”

However, the new figures, published in a parliamentary answer, reveal that growing numbers of wind farms will be built.

Last year 141 wind farm planning applications were approved, while a total of 134 were rejected, compared to 83 applications which were granted in 2010, when 37 were refused.

More than 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity is now generated from wind farms. In total, councils have approved 483 wind turbine applications since 2010.