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No More Windfarms Onshore, UK Energy Minister Promises

Christopher Hope, The Daily Telegraph

A Conservative minister last night defied Liberal Democrat Energy secretary Ed Davey to insist no more onshore wind farms would be built beyond those already planned.

Energy Minister John Hayes said it was “job done” in terms of the number of onshore wind farms required to hit European Union renewable energy targets.

The comments will delight Tory grassroots supporters who have been fighting what they call the blight of onshore wind farms imposed on communities.

But they will infuriate the Liberal Democrat Energy secretary Ed Davey who slapped down Mr Hayes after similar comments last month and has deliberately left the door open for more wind farms.

Asked on Channel Four News whether more onshore wind farms were needed, Mr Hayes said: “With respect of what’s built, with what’s consented and with a small proportion of what’s in the planning system, we will have reached our ambition in respect of the renewables’ target – end of story.

“The prime minister in the House of Commons said that when we’ve reached our targets then he invited all parties to think about where we went next. I endorse his view entirely.

“In respect of the targets that we have for renewables when we take into account, what’s built, what’s consented, what’s in planning system now – it will certainly have achieved, it will be job done.”

The remarks show that Mr Hayes is unrepentant about remarks he made last month when he said that there were currently enough wind turbines in the planning system. Currently, just under 10,000 turbines are planned for the UK.

He complained in an interview that too many of the turbines had been “peppered” across the UK without enough consideration for the countryside and people’s homes, adding that “enough is enough”.

He added: “We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.”

It later emerged that Mr Hayes had planned to make the remarks in a speech in Glasgow to a renewables conference but they were taken out by Mr Davey.

Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to back Mr Hayes when he was careful only to couch support for wind farms in terms of wind turbines sited off the coast of Britain and not on the mainland UK.

He told students in the United Arab Emirates: “We have the largest amount of renewable energy in Europe in terms of tidal power and offshore wind power, and are enhancing that with a system of subsidies which will build offshore wind and wave energy projects. Our vision is one where there is a balanced energy policy – some nuclear, some renewables and then also gas.”

Several senior Tories, including Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, believe wind farm “blight” has not been properly considered before allowing development.

Mr Paterson will formally respond to a government review on the community benefit of wind farms shortly and is expected to warn about their impact on rural areas.

Earlier this year, more than 100 Conservative MPs urged David Cameron to block the further expansion of onshore wind power.

The Daily Telegraph, 14 November 2012