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COULD this be the tipping point for the proliferation of wind turbines in Cornwall?

The Government is considering huge cuts in subsidies to onshore wind farms which, it says, add £6 to everyone’s annual electricity bill.

Lincolnshire Council is the first to declare war on wind turbines with proposals to block any within 10 miles of homes.

Council leader Martin Hill has declared Lincolnshire has 75 large turbines and doesn’t want any more. Cornwall has a lot more, with probably hundreds of new planning applications in the pipeline.

A few years ago, it was rare for Cornwall Council to refuse permission, irrespective of local feeling.

These days, the authority is taking more heed of residents’ views and judging for itself the effect a particular turbine will have on the landscape, and some are now even being turned down.

Anti-turbine groups have pointed out for years that they are inefficient and, like subsidised solar farms, companies have little to lose and a lot to gain by building them. That goes for the landowners too, who allow these structures to be built in their fields for profit.

Opponents point to countries such as Denmark and Germany, which were both well ahead of the UK in harnessing the power of wind to generate electricity, but have since decided they weren’t such a good idea after all, and have dismantled a great many of them.

Environmental groups support turbines, pointing out that the only alternative is more nuclear power stations. While no one would object too much to offshore wind farms, the rights of communities living near proposed sites to support or object to them must always hold sway when planning decisions are being made.

When a local authority refuses permission for a wind farm, companies usually challenge that decision in the High Court, and often win: but now even judges are considering their impact on local communities.

A few weeks ago, a High Court judge ruled that the rights of villagers in Norfolk to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s energy targets.

Many people in Cornwall like wind turbines, both aesthetically and on environmental grounds, but even they would not suggest they are efficient in supplying the percentage of electricity to the grid once claimed by the companies that build them.

Communities which fight turbines always say they ruin the landscape. What they never say, in public at least, is that they are also afraid they will devalue their homes.

If the Government does reduce subsidies, there will be fewer wind farms, that’s for sure, but what is the alternative for generating electricity other than more and bigger power stations? The Government should bite the bullet and admit offshore wind farms are the real answer.

They will be far more costly, but if companies do choose to put them out at sea, people would not mind too much paying subsidies towards that. Tory politicians wouldn’t kick up a fuss either, as there are few votes to be had out at sea.

Yes, the tide is turning for onshore turbines, but to protect Cornwall’s wonderful landscape, the Government should not dither over reducing these subsidies as it did with solar farm tariffs, causing a flood of fresh bids to beat the deadline.

There are probably hundreds of turbine applications in Cornwall now in pre-application discussions with the local authority. Cornwall should take Lincolnshire’s lead and stop them in their tracks.

Cornish Guardian, 7 June 2012