Ed Miliband has signalled Labour’s strong support for onshore wind farms amid Conservative calls for a cap on the expansion of turbines in the countryside.
The Labour leader said Britain will have to “embrace” the controversial technology if his party wins the next election, and signalled he wanted an audit of Britain’s windiest places to find where they should be sited.
Earlier this month, Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, told the Western Morning News wind turbines are no longer “environmentally friendly”, and suggested the Tories will pledge to curb onshore wind power in their manifesto.
He added Liberal Democrats would plant them “all over” the South West if they could get away with it.
Mr Miliband told the Mail that residents “have the right to make their objections” to applications in their area, but turbines must be built in places which can best generate electricity.
The Labour also refused to row back from comments he made as Energy Secretary in 2009, when he said opposing wind farms was as “socially unacceptable” as not wearing a seat belt.
The remarks angered rural campaigners who complain turbines are a blight on the countryside.
Mr Miliband said: “I understand the reasons why people worry about wind turbines in particular places. People always have to have the right to make their objections – planning issues and so on.
“I do think personally that we have got to embrace in general both offshore and onshore wind farms situated in the right way.”
There are about 4,000 turbines on land in Britain, and another 3,000 either under construction or which have planning permission.
Scores of Tory MPs are opposed wind farms because of their impact on the landscape, and have called for subsidies to be slashed further amid a green energy “gold rush”. The WMN revealed last month onshore and offshore wind farms add £1.2 billion to the total cost of domestic energy bills.
Mr Miliband suggested opposition to turbines onshore could be reduced if they were built in the windiest places.
“One of the things people raise is not just, ‘We don’t like it here’, but ‘Is it going to make that much of a difference here because we don’t have enough wind?’,” he said.
John Hayes, the former Conservative Energy Minister who now works in Downing Street, has spoken out about too many wind farms “peppering” the country, and called for a halt to new applications.
Mr Miliband said: “It’s got to be done in a sensitive way, but I don’t think we should take the John Hayes position, and say no more onshore wind.
“We will have manifesto commitments on green energy, definitely, because we think green energy is really important for the country.”
The Campaign to Protect Rural England warned that Labour risked alienating the public.
A spokesman said: “If you carry on trying to ram onshore wind turbines down people’s throats you are going to turn people against the bigger things we need to do to combat climate change.
“Ed Miliband needs to be really careful not to alienate people and to make sure he listens to their concerns.”
Mr Miliband’s position also suggests common ground with the Liberal Democrats ahead of the election, where many commentators are predicting some form of coalition government.
Senior Lib Dem sources recently briefed journalists that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had vetoed a Conservative proposal to block future onshore wind farms.
But they are not popular with all Lib Dem MPs. Some are opposed to them in parts of the rural Westcountry amid vociferous opposition from local people.
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