Onshore wind farms in East Anglia will be put on hold as one of the UK’s biggest green companies blames the government for making it impossible to build.
Ecotricity owner Dale Vince says a change of strategy means his 20-year-old company will no longer apply to build any new wind farms in England.
The Great Yarmouth-born entrepreneur says the government is interfering unfairly in the planning system and as a result his company is wasting millions of pounds on projects which are ultimately rejected.”
“It’s a change of strategy which just shows that it’s become very difficult to get wind farms through planning in England because the goal posts keep moving – the government keep changing the target,” he said.
Ecotricity owns 60 turbines spread over 17 wind farms in the UK. There are three operating in Norfolk, one at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynnn has been approved and the Shipdham site is in the planning process.
Mr Vince criticised the communities secretary Eric Pickles’ approach to green energy, saying it is a political tactic to stop Conservative voters switching to Ukip.
“The rules are being changed every few months in terms of planning, environmental assessments and financial support,” he said.
Ecotricity’s vision for two 100m turbines between the mid Norfolk villages of Shipdham and Bradenham have been long-running and a subject of contention.
The plans were first put forward 13 years ago and since there have been four public inquiries into the scheme.
Mr Pickles turned down the plans in September following the advice of a planning inspector – but Ecotricity have chosen to appeal that decision which is on-going.
And although Mr Vince said the government’s reaction to wind farms is only temporary – he did concede he does not know how long that could mean.
“They [the government] are simply shutting it down. They are changing planning, cutting support, closing companies down,” Mr Vince said.
“David Cameron promised to run the greenest every government, but he is doing quite the opposite.”
Ecotricity currently has six projects in the planning in England and six ready to be built.
But communities minister Kris Hopkins hit back at Mr Vince’s comments. He said: “These comments from a wind farm developer are simply wrong. Inappropriately sited wind turbines can be a blight on the landscape, harming the local environment and damaging heritage for miles around. This government has intentionally and transparently changed official planning guidance and appeal rules to ensure that these issues are better taken into account. We make no apologies for listening to public concern and giving local communities a greater say.”
Campaigners against wind turbines have welcomed the news.
David Ramsbotham, 69, of Church Street, Plumstead, has been campaigning against wind turbines for years and welcomes Ecotricity’s news.
He fought against the offshore Sheringham Shoal site and his on the committee to stop the turbine at Bodham, near Holt.
He said: “This is good news to try and stop building wind turbines on land. It’s the old argument that they are inefficient.
“And they really split communities. You get people in the same villages who are for them and against them. It costs communities a lot to fight them too. People end up raising lots of money themselves, and that is a problem as well.
“This gives our cause some hope, but with Bodham, it’s a different company.”
And the chairman of SHOWT (Stop Hempnall’s Onshore Wind Turbine) Geoff Moulton, 66, said he was relieved by the announcement.
TCI Renewables want to build three controversial wind turbines in Hempnall.
Mr Moulton, of Rectory Road, Topcroft, said: “The government have seen wind turbines have been a poor investment – onshore wind farms just don’t work.
“So it’s really good news.”
UKIP’s popularity: The green effect
With UKIP’s surge in popularity comes the Conservative need to stop voters switching parties.
In 2010 prime minister David Cameron pledged to lead the greenest government ever.
But many environmental groups – and Dale Vince – claim green issues have been driven down the Westminster agenda ever since.
Part of that deprioritising could be down to the need to keep Conservative voters blue – and stop them turning purple and yellow.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has spoken about the “lunacy of wind farms” and the supposed lack of consultation with the local community.
He said: “Building wind farms isn’t effective, it doesn’t work from an environment perspective and it doesn’t work from an economic perspective.”
In a booklet circulated to UKIP campaigners, entitled Fighting Wind Farms, the party gives guidance on how to persuade voters of their view.
It says: “There are many reasons for objecting to wind farms.
“For those living close to them, they are a noise and visual nuisance which can cause distress and a danger to health.
“For many, wind farms are an ugly intrusion into Britain’s natural heritage, and a despoilation of our precious and ancient wildernesses.
“But not everybody shares the appreciation for unspoilt landscapes.
“To make a convincing argument against wind farms it must be explained to people that wind energy suffers from many technical and economic problems, which left unchallenged will cause greater hardship for people throughout the country.”
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