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Opposing wind farms because they are ugly is irrational, claims Cable

Rural communities who oppose wind farms because of the way they look are ‘irrational’, Vince Cable said yesterday.

Turbines are no different to the electricity pylons that already dominate the skyline, said the Business Secretary.

He risked angering countryside homeowners when he pointed the finger at anti-wind farm campaign groups in beauty spots such as Yorkshire.

He also claimed the Tories – who have proposed caps on onshore wind farms from 2020 if they win the election – have a ‘phobia’ about the green energy source. ‘We have a problem and it’s a political problem,’ he told a fringe event yesterday.

‘For reasons I don’t fully understand, our Coalition partners have a pathological aversion to onshore wind. It is making this hard. Lying behind it there is some really irrational phobia.’

At the Lib Dem conference yesterday, Energy Secretary Ed Davey attacked the Conservatives for wanting to restrict turbines. He claimed communities secretary Eric Pickles, who is reviewing a number of controversial wind farm planning applications, was ‘abusing his ministerial power’.

Mr Davey said the onshore wind energy sector has been ‘growing fast’ and now generates around 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity. ‘Yet Mr Pickles doesn’t seem worried about climate or energy bills,’ he said.

‘Mr Pickles is in danger of bringing the planning system into disrepute.’

Tory communities minister Kris Hopkins last night insisted that the Coalition introduced transparent changes to planning guidance and appeal rules in assessing wind farm applications.

The Lib Dems are committed to building 300,000 new homes every year if they are returned to power at the next election.

Mr Cable said it was a ‘cliche’ to rely on brownfield land for new developments and insisted there must be a focus on using up agricultural land.

He added: ‘Most people do want green, they want green but they would rather have it outside their own house than sitting 20 miles away where they have no access to it.’

The Lib Dem said new housing was being focused on the south east because ‘people are not flocking to Burnley’.

He suggested there would need to be for central government to drive new development rather than leave it to local areas otherwise it would not happen.

‘We are going to need that element of stick as well as carrot,’ he said.

But Mr Cable defended so-called nimbys – residents who declare ‘not in my backyard’ – insisting their desire to protect the area around their homes was ‘totally rational’.

‘When you create an environment in which the most important thing is somebody’s life is their home and its value… then people are going to fight to the the last ditch to stop those values being affected.’

This week Mr Cable called for more public borrowing by central and local government to finance productive investment in transport, housing and innovation.