November 25, 2014
England, Scotland

Wind farms owner gives up over political interference

Wind farms owner quits over political interference | Wind farm magnate blames Tories as he halts expansion | Ben Webster Environment Editor | The Times | November 25, 2014 |

Britain’s wealthiest wind farm entrepreneur is giving up trying to win planning permission for more turbines in England after claiming that the Conservatives have made it too difficult.

Dale Vince owns 60 turbines spread over 17 wind farms but said that he
would not apply to build any more in England because he did not want to waste millions of pounds on projects that would be rejected.

Mr Vince, who owns Ecotricity and is said to be worth about £100 million, accused Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, of interfering unfairly in the planning system to prevent Conservative voters from switching to Ukip.

In an interview with The Times, he said: “The success rate in planning has halved in the past couple of years, entirely due to the efforts of the Tories, and it has made it less sensible to spend any real effort to try and get planning permission for projects in England. We are fighting a moving target. The rules are being changed every few months in terms of planning, environmental assessments and financial support.”

Mr Pickles has intervened in 53 wind farm projects, calling in the applications so he can make the final decision. He has published 25 decisions so far, with 22 rejected and three approved. In seven cases he rejected the recommendation of an independent inspector that a wind farm should be built.

Ecotricity is appealing against Mr Pickles’s decision to reject a plan for four turbines at Highbridge on the Somerset Levels. The company claims that Mr Pickles should have visited the site before making his decision.

Mr Vince said that David Cameron visited one of his wind turbines while in opposition and spoke very positively about onshore wind but that he had since abandoned his principles to try towin next year’s election. “Cameron has gone from husky-hugging to hammering the green crap.

“He knows we have to fight climate change but he’s scared of Ukip. Ukip have three policies – anti-Europe, anti-immigration and anti-onshore wind – and the Tories have aped all three of them.”

Mr Vince said that he would focus on trying to build wind farms in Scotland, where there was less political interference in planning applications.

Renewable UK, the industry body, said the amount of onshore wind capacity winning planning permission in England had fallen from 444 megawatts in 2012/13 to 155MW last year.

Mr Pickles did not respond when asked to comment but his department sent a statement from Kris Hopkins, a junior minister. Mr Hopkins said: “Inappropriately sited wind turbines can be a blight on the landscape, harming the local environment and damaging heritage for miles around.”

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