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Wind Farm Backlash: Growing Public Opposition Thwarts Green Energy Drive

Plans to cover Britain with wind farms are being thwarted by a growing tide of public opposition. Nearly half of all onshore wind farms in England and Wales are being refused planning permission, figures reveal. The percentage of such developments being refused planning permission has risen sharply over the last five years.

Unpopular: Nearly half of all onshore wind farms in England and Wales are being refused planning permission, new figures have revealed

Unpopular: Nearly half of all onshore wind farms in England and Wales are being refused planning permission, new figures have revealed

According to data obtained by law firm McGrigors, in 2005 29 per cent  were turned down by planners – rising to 33 per cent in 2009 and 48 per cent last year.

The increase in objections is partly the result of the volume of wind  turbine applications being proposed by energy companies.

Under European climate change targets, around a third of all Britain’s electricity will have to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2020.

The majority of that green power will come from 10,000 new wind turbines at sea and on land.

But according to McGrigors, 32 out of 66 applications for onshore wind farms were rejected in 2010. Britain has 305 onshore wind farms and 3,360 turbines.

McGrigors, a leading commercial law firm which represents wind farm developers, claims energy companies will become increasingly frustrated with local planners refusing to give the go-ahead to money-spinning turbines.

However, Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is sceptical of the Government’s climate change policy, including its plans for building wind farms, said: ‘The public backlash against wind farms is not surprising.

‘It is the inevitable and inexorable consequence of a costly, unpopular and completely pointless policy that is butchering Britain’s green and pleasant landscape without having any effect on the climate.

‘These green projects are only viable because of multi-million subsidies supporting a few hundred wealthy landowners and a handful of energy companies.

‘By opposing wind farms, a growing number of neighbourhoods and communities are protecting both their local environments and their purses from blind exploitation.’

Jacqueline Harris, a partner at McGrigors, said wind farm developers believe they are not getting a ‘balanced hearing’ at local level. She said: ‘The feeling is that local authorities are too often prioritising local concerns.

‘There is little willingness to  consider the benefits of renewable energy generation in context.’ 

She added: ‘Objections based around the visual impact of  wind turbines are overriding the wider need to deliver energy security and mitigate the impact of climate change. The visual impact of wind turbines is a common complaint and often successful grounds for objection.

‘This applies even where the benefits of the development greatly outweigh the downsides to a small but vocal minority.

‘Even single turbines, which can generate enough electricity for a few thousand houses, are being rejected because of the visual impact on a handful of properties.’

The Government’s Localism Bill – which gives more power to local communities over planning decisions – could make it even  more difficult for the wind farm developers to push through planning permission.

According to Mr Peiser, the Bill has ‘helped to empower individuals, councils and communities to oppose and halt wind farms’.

A spokesman for Renewables UK, which represents the wind  farm industry, claimed: ‘Wind farms bring real economic benefits to  local communities.

‘Every refused wind farm planning application is a missed opportunity to secure employment and business benefits at a local level, and further deliver on our energy security and climate change targets.


Daily Mail, 11 July 2011