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MP warns of wind farm “alien invasion” in the South West

Rural towns and villages in the South West are under attack from an “alien invasion” of wind turbine “machines”, an MP has said.

Torridge and West Devon Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox yesterday led a House of Commons debate arguing a Government planning crackdown has failed to halt the march of onshore wind farms in the region.

Mr Cox told Parliament towering turbines were causing “real disruption, dismay and distress” in rural communities, and claimed there remains an “inherent bias” in the planning system in favour of wind power.

But Communities and Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins argued more wind farm applications have been refused since new Government guidelines on planning were published last summer.

The Westminster Hall debate came after the Government revealed onshore and offshore wind farms are subsidised by household energy bills to the tune of £1.2 billion a year, which the MP said was an “astonishing figure”.

There are more than 500 onshore wind farms in Britain, with a combined might of around 4,000 turbines, including around 100 in Devon and Cornwall.

Mr Cox said there was a “helplessness” as his constituency has been targeted by renewable energy developers, and spoke of “machines coming to disrupt their lives”.

In July, the Department for Communities and Local Government published new guidance to councils to ensure residents concerns about unsightly wind farms are being taken in to account.

But Mr Cox said the move “appears to have made little difference” in Torridge and West Devon, and that planners “do not interpret it as a change”.

He said: “There is an inherent bias within the planning system still uneradicated despite the good intentions of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

“When the rhetoric was ramped up to suggest a substantial departure from existing practice was about to occur, those expectations have not been fulfilled.

“The bias in the planning system and the incentives and rewards is still leading to multiple applications throughout the countryside.”

He added communities have “come to me in desperation because of what they see as the alien invasion of their homes, their familiar landscapes, some of the most exquisite in the country, business owners who make their living from the tranquil unspoiled fields and pastures of Devonshire”.

“These people feel their interests are being harmed. They feel they are not having a voice,” Mr Cox continued, arguing house prices and people’s health also risked being affected.

Of the £1.2 billion subsidy, Mr Cox said: “That is an astonishing figure when you consider that it falls – in many hundreds of thousands of cases – upon on those least able to afford the inflated energy price that is caused as a result of the renewables obligation.

“Many of them in fuel poverty are having to sustain a price inflated by that £1.2 billion that is currently being added to the price of electricity as a result of the extraordinary benefits that those wind turbines are receiving.”

But Mr Hopkins insisted the new guidance was having a positive effect.

The minister said that 68 applications had been rejected, compared to just 56 that had been approved in the last 12 months since the supplementary guidance was issued.

He said: “I do understand the frustration of local communities, how they can feel when a planning inspector gives the go-ahead to a proposal that they have opposed,” he said.

“But can I give some reassurance, since the publication of the guidance last summer, appeals for more significant wind turbines have been turned down in greater numbers – 68 have been turned down than approved, 56 have been approved, compared with 12 months ago where 85 were approved and 77 were refused.

“So there is a clear turnaround in the number of applications which have now been refused.

“We are determined to give communities a greater say over proposals that will affect them.”