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U-Turn: Wind Farm Ban Ruled Out By Ministers

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Rowena Mason, The Daily Telegraph

Councils must not impose blanket bans on wind farms being built near houses, ministers have ruled, weeks after promising to stop the spread of unwanted turbines across the country.

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, promised to “give local communities a greater say” on where wind farms are built, but new guidance from his department warns councils not to create “inflexible” turbine-free zones.

The planning document, released after Parliament broke up for the summer, says the distance of a wind farm from housing does not “necessarily determine whether the impact of a proposal is unacceptable”.

“Local planning authorities should not rule out otherwise acceptable renewable energy developments through inflexible rules on buffer zones,” it says.

At least eight councils are trying to restrict large turbines being built up to 1.2 miles from housing.

The guidance appears at odds with comments made in January by Nick Boles, the planning minister, when he told his local newspaper: “It is perfectly reasonable and right for . . . district councils to draw up policies that will guide future decisions about the siting of wind turbines so that we protect our precious landscape and listen to local people’s concerns.

“Such policies might include minimum separation distances between centres of population and new turbines.”

Last month, leading Conservatives promised that the guidance would effectively end the spread of turbines, which have been blamed for blighting landscapes. A senior Tory said at the time: “The Prime Minister strongly feels that this is a real local issue and if people don’t want to have wind farms they don’t have to have them.”

The guidance makes it clear that the need for green energy “does not automatically override” environmental protections and local concerns. It also orders officials to take into account topography, the effect on “views” and historic sites and assess the “cumulative impact of wind turbines” amid fears that some areas are being overwhelmed by applications.

However, Whitehall sources said the guidelines were fairly similar to previous ones and would not amount to a community veto on wind farms.

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